Thursday, July 30, 2009
2. Texas - I like the 'Horns to run the table, despite the challenges (RRR) or traps (A&M).
3. Ohio State - I've already predicted them to beat both USC and Penn State...so I guess that means that they'll be the ones left out. But after '06-'07, will anyone be surprised?
4. Oklahoma - Oklahoma is a top-5 team, no doubt. Too bad for them Texas is in the top-2.
5. USC - Even with a loss in Columbus, the Trojans will be competing for the national title. The question is, will they keep the ship right in the conference?
6. Penn State - If they beat Ohio State, the Lions could be playing for a a national title...which seems unfair given their schedule.
7. Alabama - Remember, I audibled on the SEC West yesterday and changed to Bama to win. Behind that great D, the Tide should get 10 wins and a division title.
8. Cal - Here it is, the first real sketch call. Can any other team start, play through, and finish strong in the PAC-10 besides USC? If any team can, it's the Bears.
9. Rutgers - With a schedule easier than some 5-A Texas High schools, the Knights have only themselves to watch out for as the season wears on. DO NOT BE SURPRISED if Rutgers is undefeated at season's end...then they'll lose to VA Tech in another boring installment of the Orange Bowl.
10.Boise State - If they beat Oregon they could be higher and playing after New Year's in Tempe. If they lose to Oregon, they'll have one-loss and be relegated to Hawai'i, but keep a top-10 ranking.
11.VA Tech - 10-3, ACC Champs, Orange Bowl...once the bowls are over people will forget the turd the Hokies lay in ATL to start the season.
12.Notre Dame - I HATE this. The Irish barely have top-25 talent, but if they get to 9-3 - which they will - the voters will keep them in the top-12 and ND will get to be outmatched by yet another BCS bowl opponent.
13.LSU - The key to success here? Jordan Jefferson. If he clicks, than the Tigers will roll and mark my words: They will beat Bama, Georgia or Florida.
14.TCU - By far the most talented non-BCS team. If they get through at least 1 of their BCS foes (most likely Virginia), they cruise to a MWC title and a top-15 ranking.
15.Georgia - I see 9-3 and a bowl win either in the CFA or a New year's Day bowl. I'll go ahead and say they beat both Oklahoma State and GA Tech...maybe.
16.Oklahoma State - Who can compete with Texas and Oklahoma right now? No the Pokes, for sure. They'll lose those 2 games, UGA and have another slip-up somewhere.
17.Ole Miss - Just you watch. Snead I'll give you, but are Nutt and the McCluster-Fuck offense enough to compete realistically for a BCS Title? Or, even an SEC title? I mean, how much of that Florida game last year was Ole Miss' talent and how much was really just Florida laying an egg? The Gators won the National Title and Ole Miss notched losses against Vandy and Wake Forrest. You tell me.
18.Georgia Tech - I know this seems very low, but follow me here. Can Tech compete for the ACC Title? Absolutely. But, it's still GA Tech, so they probably won't. I can see losses coming against Virginia Tech, at Virginia, a split with Miami and UNC and then a season-ender against Georgia. Even if they get the monkey off their back and win at UVA, that would still be a 9-3 season with a late loss that voters will remember. Add that in with Tech's recent bowl streak and, voila!, you get number 18.
19.Nebraska - Winning the North - yes. Winning the B-12? Not yet.
20. Michigan State - Don't sleep on Dantonio. Sparty's gotten better under his watch and I like his chances here. If the in-state sleeping giant keeps snoozing, then they could become a powerful program.
21. Florida State - The Seminoles still have everything they need to be a powerhouse...it just never seems falls into place quite right anymore. Recruiting, QB play, coaching and the reemergence of Florida have all been bad, but the door's still ajar. With the right chemistry and, for lack of a better word, focus, FSU can get back to where they were. This could be just the year they need...
22. Illinois - Zook + scrambling QB = 8-4.
23. Pitt - Why not?
24. Miami - Ditto + athletic players and solid D.
25. Clemson - obligatory.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
1. LSU will not win the SEC West, Alabama will...Ole Miss is still overrated. Why did I change to the Tide? Defense and schedule. The D will be one of the nation's best and Bama's bye between UT and LSU makes me feel that they'll be ready for the Tigers. Schedule-wise, Bama draws UK, UT and SoCar - games they should win - and LSU draws Georgia and Florida...back-to-back. It just seems more realistic to pick the Tide now.
2. While Georgia and Georgia Tech will have similar records at season's end, UGA will be higher ranked. I'm picking the Dawgs to beat the Jackets in ATL, meaning Tech will have a season-ending loss fresh on the voters' minds. Also, losing to Florida looks better than losing to Virginia Tech, and Tech plays at Virginia, which is like kryptonite to them.
3. It's a VERY realistic possibilty that Florida, despite being one of the best teams ever, will NOT play for the title. If 2 major BCS schools run the table and Florida has1 loss, the Gators would be shut out of contention. Who could do it? Texas, Oklahoma, Penn State, Ohio State, and/or USC. Rutgers could potentially be 12-0, too, but I think a 11-1 Florida team could nudge them out. Fortunately for the Gators, most of those teams will face each other throughout the season and UF would be the pick of the one-loss liter.
4. Boston College will finish behind NCState this season. QB Dominique Davis just transferred for academic reasons, which might continue the trend of spotty play behind the center from '08.
5. I'm still not sure if Boise State will beat Oregon, but I do know that a one-loss WAC team will not be in a BCS bowl.
So, there it is. I lined under center, didn't like the D and changed the play at the line. Don't judge me too harshly for it. Stay tuned for tomorrow; my preseason poll will be up in all of its glory!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
ND starting QB Jimmy Clausen...nice job at development, Weis.
2. Boise State - Here they go again. The Broncos have a great shot at undefeated, with Oregon looking like the only true test on he schedule. Despite having only 10 starters back, there's more than enough coaching and talent in Boise to keep the Broncs well ahead of Nevada. While I do not think this team is as good as TCU, they're more likely to get a BCS nod with the easy road ahead of them. If they knock off Oregon (which I'm not sold on) all they have to do is watch the upset all the way to Tempe.
3. TCU - This is easily the best non-BCS team in the nation and could realistically compete in every conference. I was tempted to include the Mountain West in the conference blasts, but when faced with the Wyomings and New Mexicos of the league just gave up. Anyway, the Horned Frogs have a chance to run the table, despite 2 BCS games on the road(VA, Clemson). Because of that, I'll call for them to win their conference again, securing it with a win at BYU on October 24. But, don't look for a BCS bowl, as Boise State will probably get an at large bid (again) and there's no way 2 of these guys will make it.
4. BYU - The Cougs are making a case by playing 2 BIG games this year: Oklahoma and Florida State, and might even win one of them. Max Hall is a good QB with insane numbers and Unga's a solid back, there's only 2 other starters coming back with them. Defensively, they return 8, but D's not exactly the strong suite in Provo. They'll most likely win 9 or 10 games, but their homecoming will be ruined by TCU.
5. Utah - Not this year, Utes. I see losses at Oregon, TCU and BYU, but will most likely win eight or nine games en route to a bowl game.
6. Troy - The men of little-"t" Troy again look to increase credibility by playing 2 SEC schools.
7. ECU - I guess it runs in the family.
8. Nevada - Fear the Pistol...I'm looking at you, Notre Dame.
9. UTEP - Mike Price, Baby!
10. Central Michigan - Remember: LeFevour's still here.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I know they're not playing football, but this pic rocks.
Here's what I know: OSU and PSU will be the top 2 and Indiana and Purdue will be the bottom 2. Northwestern will not match last season's success and Iowa will find a way to finish in the middle of the pack, despite their talent. Michigan will be MUCH improved, but not quite ready to contend while Minnesota returns so much experience, it's a shame their schedule gets so rough through late October and early November. Now, what all that means and who it'll shake out was harder to predict, but I did my best. Enjoy.
The Big Ten Champion will be...Ohio State. Despite their recent failures in big games, this is still a big-time program in cfb. Tressel has won a national title already and will be competing for a 5th straight league championship in '09. The Bucks recruit well from a talent-rich area and things are in place for a successful brace of seasons. I've already called for an undefeated season for the Buckeyes, so their spot here should be no surprise. Terrelle Pryor will be in complete control this season, and if Tressel opens up the book a bit, we could see some big offense in Columbus. While there's only 4 other starters back on O, one's a reliable WR and the others are all linemen; a pretty good combo for a young, athletic QB. Defensively, the Bucks return 7 to the league's best unit in '08 and should only be better this season. Good enough, I'm predicitng to get a little revenge on Penn State on 11/7 to set up running the table and clinching the conference.
2. Penn State - Like Rutgers, Penn State plays a shameful schedule and could realistically be undefeated at season's end. They do travel to Illinois early and SParty late, but should be able to win both of those. The real test will be hosting Ohio State on 11/7 and the nits better hope that the ease of their season to this point has not dulled them too much. Offensively, Penn State will be the most explosive team in the B10, with both Clark and Royster returning, but other than that, there's not much else in the way of returning experience. Defensively, the LB's will be heading up a solid unit, but I don't see a top-2 statistical finish for them this year. Look for 7-1 in the conference and a BCS bowl.
3. Michigan State - I know this sounds crazy, but everything looks perfect for Sparty to have a much improved conference run in 2009. Dantonio is an underrated coach who is quietly building a good team here in Lansing. It helps that in-state rival Michigan is down, but State might have enough f a foothold to keep building as a long as Dantonio stays. They return 15 starters, and I think they'll have a surprising defense that will carry them through tough games. There's no Ohio State on the schedule and the worst road game is at Illinois. Even with a loss there and in the season-ender with PSU, MSU would still have a 6-2 conference mark, which would be good enough for 3rd place. But, I think I'll call for a win to spoil the Zookers' homecoming and a return to New Year's Day football.
4. Illinois - There's a lot of noise surrounding the Illini this year, but I'm hesitant to have them even this high in the standings. What I like about Illinois: Offense, baby. The juice is loose for his senior year, Benn's back at wideout, all other skills starters are experienced and the line returns 3 (though only 40 starts, experience-wise). This will be a fun team to watch, no doubt, but offense might not be enough to win the tough games I see on their slate, including a b-2-b-2-b run at OSU, PSU, and Michigan State. The Illini D finished near the bottom of the pack statistically last year, and only return 5 starters in '09. That could spell trouble and should keep them from achieving anything major or surprising anyone en route to a 5-3 record.
5. Minnesota - Now you're really thinking I'm nuts. But here's what I see when I look at Minnesota for '09: 17 returning starters, a coach who took them from 1 win in '07 to 7 in '08, general excitement for a new stadium and a surging program and, most important, the most returning experience in the nation, including 102 along the O-line! Last season, both the offense and defense underachieved, but I'm hoping the experience and the energy will give them the boost they need to increase statistical output and keep them in close games. I'm not completely nuts, though, and see the Gophers' limitations. They suffer the same three-game run that Illinois does with OSU, PSU and MSU, but add Illinois and Iowa late. It'll be hard, but they'll win 2 of those for a 4-4 record.
6. Iowa - It's not crazy to think that the Hawkeyes could have the best defense in this conference next season. They return 8 to a unit that was top-3 last season and the LB corp and DB's are top notch. This could help Iowa control big games and keep some of the faster, more explosive teams in check and allow the offense to take over behind their stellar O-line (99 starts). The Hawkeyes will be playing traditional B10 football all year, and while they have the talent to be competitive, it won't be enough to challenge for the title. The big games are spread out enough for comfort, but I just don't see this team getting back to 9 wins...or even 5 in league.
7. Michigan - Talk about hard times. Michigan, the preeminent powerhouse, was a lowly 2-6 in the Big Ten last season while Rich Rod implemented his new systems. The good news? Well, we're a season in and the offense return a ZOMG 10 starters. 10 guys who know the new system now and are ready to compete and get Big Blue back where they belong. The Bad News? one of those 10 is NOT a QB. Remember Pat White at WVU? Pretty important, huh? The entire system revolves around the QB and not only will Michigan be breaking in a new one, he's a true freshman. Ouch. So, while Michigan will be much improved and winning early, the back half run with PSU, at Ill., and tOSU will be too much this soon. But look out next year...
8. Wisconsin - Everything about Wisky this season screams "middle of the pack." The offense and defense both finished their in '08 and the 11 starters returning pretty much mean they'll be there again at season's end. Offensively, they return a solid QB and his best targets, but the run game's iffy with unproven backs and questionable depth on the line. Injuries were a major problem last year, so if the Badgers stay healthy, they could easily climb up a few spots, but with the league's parity through the middle, I'd say they need to get used that 3-5 record.
9. Northwestern - There's no Ohio State on the schedule and 8 starters back on a very surprising D. It'll be enough to go bowling, but not enough to reach 9 wins again. The offense will be Kafka-esque...not really, but the QB's name is Mike Kafka and that's the most interesting thing there is to say about this team. Moving on.
And, for the bottom of the barrel - The Hoosier State Ho-down! I'll take Indiana (10) over Purdue (11) and and these two teams will share 3 wins between themselves. Against who I don't know, but it always seems to go that way.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Dan Mullen, perhaps the least recognized coach in the SEC.
2. The Mountain West is also having their media days this week. Who knew? But, they might be looking to expand to 10 teams, including a maneuver to cat-burglar Boise State out of the WAC.
3. Speaking of Boise State, the Broncos are looking to beef up their non-conference slate by agreeing to play Virginia Tech in DC to open the 2010 season. Cheers to both teams involved for creating fun match-ups.
4. The McCluster-Fuck charms the ladies down in Ole Mississip (h/t Doc Sat.):
This clip's creepy in a VERY exploitative way. He's a football player, not a stripper, ladies. See those old women jumping at the chance to undress him? That's somebody's mom. Possibly yours. Loser.
5. I wonder if Paul Finebaum will finally describe what Nick Saban's junk tastes like at this year's media days...
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
BTW, don't leave that Berry for Heisman site open in a window as you type a blog post; it will drive you insane!
Monday, July 20, 2009
1. Rutgers - The Scarlet Knights are not this good of a team...but they play a schedule that makes high school ball look competitive. And yes, part of that is a slap in the face of the Big East as a weak conference; the other part is a non-conf. of Army, FIU, 2 FCS squads and a sad, sad Maryland team. Plus, the way the schedule breaks in the conference games means Rutgers could realistically go undefeated in 2009. They get a bye before Pitt and SoFla and catch West Virginia post-BYB. I can see them stumbling early against Cincy, but that very could well be it and with 15 lettermen and 80-O-line starts returning, the Knight's should finish up 6-1 (I don't have enough faith to make the perfect call).
2. Pitt - Man, this would've been a great year to have LeSean McCoy coming back...but with the most starters back in the league, they should be able to recover from his early departure. Wannstedt has been an underachiever here, setting the tone for some disappointing seasons, but this could be the year that changes. They draw Rutgers away after a short week could easily be caught overlooking the Orange a week before Notre Dame, but the QB and O-line will be experienced enough to weather through and keep pressure of the D in big games. The Panthers will most likely lose in Jersey...and, sadly, I see them dropping at least one more.
Now it gets messy, the next three teams could be in an ugly 3-way tie for third.
3. South Florida - I know this is a very dangerous pick. So much of me wants to pick the Bulls lower, but then again, it's hard to go against Grothe and Selvie. Grothe will have to be especially wiley this year, playing behind a rebuilt O-line, but the major skill players are all returning from '08 and should make things a bit easier. Defensively, Selvie heads up a great line that anchors a solid unit with 6 starters back. Still, though, I can't put too much faith in SoFla; they love to drop big games and stub their toes in unexpected places. I'll call for losses on the road at Rutgers and Pitt, and a possible slip against WVU at home after a short week. Not only that, but the Miami game could lay a beating on the Bulls weakening them as they head into a dangerous season ending showdown at UConn.
4. Cincinnati - FUCK. How can I pick the BearCats this high with one returning starter on D? Well, I'm hoping the offense can pick up the slack as the defense settles in early. Last year, it felt like everyone played QB for Cincy, but 09 should see more security behind center with senior signal caller Pike and a more mature RB in Pead. Defensively, uh...you know...they have stuff to figure out, but I trust the staff here to make the necessary adjustments and finish in the top-half of the conference.
5. West Virginia - If everything clicks for the 'Neers, then they actually could compete for the conference title...but that's not going to happen. Devine's the only bright spot on the O, surrounded by an inexperienced O-line and an unproven QB. The receiving corp is in great shape, but we saw in key games last season what happens when WVU has to rely on the pass. That said, don't be surprised if the lack of experience up front (a mere 31 starts) ruins some game planning and keeps Devine off rhythm. Defensively, I'm always a bit leery of a 3-3-5 in a mid-major, but 7 starters back should keep WVU close in tight games. A bye week late could help them in the Back Yard Brawl, and a surprise in NJ could change the complexion of the entire league. But, the middle of the slate looks a bit rough for this squad and they'll drop a game or three, including at Cincy.
6. Louisville - Last year's failure was a surprise and should be remedied - somewhat - in '09. The schedule is brutal, but the Cards are good enough to get back to a bowl game, especially if they clean up the turnovers. While I doubt this program getting back to it's success of Petrino's era anytime soon, they could begin improving with a returning RB and a solid middle line. The defense will finish up middle of the pack statistically, but it could be enough to get L'ville 3 wins in the conference.
7. UConn - The Huskies have lost their skill players, most importantly Donald Brown, but have an impressive 90 starts coming back along the O-line. That will be enough to keep the Huskies competitive with Louisville for the 4th tier of the Big East, but not enough to see the win totals of the last 2 years. I like the Cardinals to ruin UConn's homecoming game and the Huskies to drop the next 3 in a row before a possible season ending upset against SoFla.
8. Syracuse - Not yet.
And, if that wasn't quite you're looking for, here's Dickmento:
Friday, July 17, 2009
BTW, "Let Me Put My Love Into You" is one of the best songs from one of the best albums ever, and that's something that Tipper can never take away from AC/DC.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Atlantic Champion will be Florida State, but not in nearly as decisive a fashion as their Coastal counterpart. It seems like '09 will finally see consistent production at QB for the Seminoles, and with 8 returning offensive starters and 90 returning O-line starts, FSU will be set on this side of the ball. However, with only 5 starters returning on an already unsure D, don't look for Bowden and company to move out of the middle of the pack statistically. The D will cost them some big games, but I'm calling for the win on the road over the fighting Dabos of Clemson to clinch the division with a 5-3 record.*
2. Clemson - I'm really hesitant to actually put my faith in Clemson. They're just so darn good at flopping when they're supposed to win big. Technically, the Tigers are probably the best team in this division, but if history teaches anything, it's that they won't win the division. They return 15 starters and could have the best D in the conference, but I see them splitting Tech-BC back-to-back and falling to both Miami and FSU. While they'll finish 5-3 just like the Noles, the loss head-to-head will keep them out of the CG yet again.
3. Boston College - The coaching situation might finally be evening out in Chestnut Hill. Spaz is a program guy who's been here for 13 years and should help a great program get even better. While BC will be breaking a new QB, he'll have a sturdy O-line to protect him and top-5 rusher Montel Harris to alleviate some pressure. I honestly don't see much change on the D, wit the Eagles returning 7 to a unit that's usually in the top-half of the league. It will be enough for BC to be competitive, and win the Tom O'Brien Bowl with NCSU, but don't look for a return to 9 wins. BC will finish 4-4 in the ACC with the head-to-head win against NC State being the deciding factor in the hierarchy.
4. NC State - There will be a real traffic jam in the middle of this division, with BC, NCSU and Wake most likely settling in with similar records. The Pack have finished with 3, 5, and 6 wins in the last three seasons and the '09 squad looks poised for 7 or 8. They return a solid 14 starters, but with a questionable run game, Russel Wilson will have to carry more of a load than he might be able to handle in big games. Tom O'Brien will again come up short against his old team on 10/17, but the 4-4 conference mark will be enough to send the Pack bowling again.
5. Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons will be winning games on offense this year, as they return 9 starters, 119 O-line starts, and a talented leader in Riley Skinner. But, it won't be enough to reach last year's 8-win total with the anchor of a rebuilding defense dragging them down. A mere 4 starters return to a beleaguered unit that very well could lose all 3 b-2-b-2-b games with Miami, GA Tech, and FSU. They should split the BC-NCSU swing for a nice 3-way tie here in the middle with 4-4 records.
6. Maryland - Finally, a clear pick in this division. The Terps could finish 0-8 if they lose at Duke and can't muster an upset somewhere in an upset-happy league. A mere 9 total returning starters and a washed out O-line (27 starts) will doom Maryland to the cellar in '09.
Florida State at Clemson - For the division.
NC State at Boston College - The O'Brien Bowl could be the difference between New Year's and Christmas bowling.
Miami at Florida State - A cross divisional match-up that will set the tone of each team's season and could affect the outcome of the Atlantic division.
Florida State at Wake Forest - This is a stumbling block for the Noles and a potential upset win for Wake.
Clemson at GA Tech - an early match up where a loss could send each team reeling
If the wins are permanently vacated, will this be Bowden's last season? It'd be nigh on impossible to overcome JoePa for the record now. Of course, he doesn't seem to be serving much function other than figure head anyway, so who knows; maybe he'll stay till he drops dead on the field.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
@ Salinger College Porcupines
Georgia State Panthers
@ Georgia A&M SwampCats
@ Southeastern Hoplites
@ NC State Wolfpack
Virginia Tech Hokies
@ Florida State Seminoles
South West GA (SOWEGA) Timber Cruisers
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
1. Virginia Tech – This is an easy enough pick. They’ve won the division 3 of the last 4 years and are poised to do it again. Beamer Ball is back in full effect with 7 starters returning on the leagues best D and the special teams always clicking. The O-line has lost some depth, but should be good enough for Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans to control the big games. When I look at the conference schedule, I don’t see a game they should lose, but it’s the ACC so I’ll throw in an obligatory upset loss in a 7-1 run to the conference title game.
2. Georgia Tech – I’ve railed against and rallied around Johnson’s modern triple option, after watching it blow up teams like Miami and Georgia and seeing it fizzle out against UNC and LSU. Even with 18 returning starters, I think we’ll see more of the same in ’09: up and down, up and down. The defense, especially upfront, will be questionable, but the league’s so unpredictable, the Jackets should coast to a 5-3 record.
3. Miami – The Canes are still a degree or two separated from their old-school domination, but last year was a great step forward. The rebuilding defense was exposed in certain games last season, but could be the conferences best in ’09 with 7 returning starters. If Jacory Harris steps into the QB role and the O-line gels, this spot could be too low of a pick….but I’m not counting on that happening. Look for 4-4 in the conference, with a win at UNC being the deciding factor between 3rd and 4th.
4. North Carolina – I trust what Butch Davis is doing here. His recruiting has been top notch and now we have platoons of starters that he’s brought in and cultivated into a very talented team. While they’re still a season or two away from competing for the division crown, they should make some noise this year. They return 15 starters from an 8-5 squad, including 9 on D. While they win a surprise game or two, they’ll drop the late season game at Miami and finish 4-4.
5. Virginia – I just don’t see Virginia competing this year. With only 11 returning starters and a questionable defense, Al Groh will need a miracle to reach 6 overall wins. While they have a clear advantage over Maryland and Duke, November should see 4 straight losses to wrap up a 2-6 ACC campaign.
6. Duke – Where to start? With both the 2nd worst offense and defense in ’08 and a mere 11 starters, I see little chance for Duke to build any momentum. They do draw a winnable home game with Maryland, but there’s little else to boost the Devils’ confidence. Cutcliffe and company need to use ’09 as a rebuilding year and start trying to find an edge in the in state recruiting wars.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 10/17 – This could decide the division crown.
Miami at Virginia Tech, 9/26 – ditto.
Georgia Tech at Miami, 9/17 – A game that will most likely be an early gauge on what direction these two teams’ will be headed in.
Miami at Florida State, 9/7 – Always a big rivalry and a great start to the season.
Miami at UNC, 11/14 – This late in the year could see these two teams fighting for a spot in the bowl hierarchy.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
1. USC - Do I need to bother explaining this? The only debate I had was whether to pick a 8-1 or a perfect 9-0 conference record. And, since I'm picking them to bomb in Columbus I've figured them for a perfect conference run.
2. Cal - I really like this Bear squad in '09. Jahvid Best might be the best offensive player in the conference and with a returning QB and a solid O-line he could do some serious damage on his way to downtown NYC. Defensively, the Bears are in good shape. They have one of the best D-lines, which they'll need to control the line as they won't be getting much productivity out of a soft LB corp. Hagan and Thompson will have the corners on lock while commanding arguably the best defensive b'field on the West Coast.
If the Golden Bears upset the Men of Troy on October 3rd, they'll be in the driver's seat to the conference championship. For some reason, though, I see Cal as more unreliable than USC, which should result in a loss and a 8-1 conference record - good enough for 2nd in the league.
3. Arizona State - The Devils are in recovery mode after a disappointing 2008. Lapses in focus and offense kept them out of the post season, but that should be cleaned up this year. The D is underrated and will catch some high fliers off guard, but it might not be enough to knock off the top tier teams. A 6-3 record will be a welcome improvement in Tempe and lock the Devils into 3rd place.
Now, here's where it gets tricky. The parity here makes a nightmare out of prognostication, as many teams will be clocking in with similar records. You ready?
4-ish - UCLA - Neuheisel's '08 squad left a lot of room for improvement. They went a lowly 3-6 in the conference and had the worst offense outside the state of Washington. By now, the new systems should be in place and with 9 returning starters on offense, look for the Bruins to be near the top this year statistically. They'll split games in the states of Oregon and Arizona to finish up around 5-4 and right in the middle of the pack.
4-ish - Stanford - There's not much to this other than the gut feeling I get when I look at their schedule, coach and returning starters. They're solid up front on both sides, which should allow them to control tempo in tight games and take the pressure off skill players offensively and a soft backfield defensively. By now, the Cardinal should be adapted to Harbaugh's schemes, as well as his unique coaching style. All this should give Stanford the confidence needed to blast their first 4 games heading into the meat of their conference schedule. With a little luck, which I have a hunch they'll get, the Cardinal will knock off a couple big boys en route to a 5-4 league record and a long awaited return to the post season.
4-ish - Arizona - Stoops is really beginning to turn things around here. Last season the 'Cats lost 4 games in conference, but 2 were thisclose against USC and Oregon St. I almost went out on a fat limb and picked them for 2nd, but their focus scares me a bit. The skill players return for the most part, but the offense will come down to a new QB gelling with a rebuilt line. While the defense returns 7, they'll be soft enough up front to give up big plays to better teams. I see them dropping 3 games in the last 5 weeks to finish up in a 3-way tie for 3rd with a 5-4 record.
7. Oregon - Many a preseason picker is shying away from the Ducks because of the new coach. That doesn't really scare me. Chip Kelly has been the offensive mastermind here for years and Oregon has had some amazing seasons in recent memory. What does scare me is the lack of experience. There's 9 starters back and a mere TWENTY starts on the O-line. Defensively, a Duck squad placing near the bottom gets only 5 players back and looks to be seriously rebuilding. Look for Oregon near the top in '10, but this year I think they're lucky to be considered this high. As the home team, they'll have the leg up in the Civil War and that could be the difference between these two teams' end of the year positions.
8. Oregon State - I love the skills players in Corvallis. The Rodgers boys will be making more noise in '09 and returning QB Moevao should be able to produce good numbers. Look for the Beavers to finish near the top of the stat sheet offensively. That's the good news. While the Beavers played solid D last season, they're only getting 3 players back, making them one of the most inexperienced D in the nation. That won't be enough to push out of the bottom half of the league or get State over the hump. Despite dropping the Civil War and a probable 3-6 mark, they could go bowling if they run the non-conference table.
And, the bottom. What do you need to know? Lackluster players, no discipline, off field troubles abounding, and nothing to build off of. It'll come down to the Apple Cup to see who wins a conference game, and I'm taking the Huskies this time.
10. Washington State
Thursday, July 9, 2009
The Division Champion will be...Nebraska...?(see, like this.) Pelini seems to have a natural command of this team and that's crucial for the program to succeed; the coach must buy into Husker nation and Bo, more than anyone since Big Tom, does. While the option might be gone, the success of the heyday is creeping back in. While not returning as many starters as their competition, Nebraska has the individuals to compete. I see them as a favorite in most of their conference games, but the division crown could still be on the line in the season ending showdown with Colorado on 11/27. If they can pull that out and watch the upset, there's no reason they won't be repping the north with a 5-3 mark in league play.
2. Kansas - I REALLY wanted to put Kansas at #1, as I have a lot of faith in Todd Reesing and what he can do to motivate a football team. But, the Jayhawks never play D and the O-line is only returning a total of 26 starts - OUCH. Not only that, but they draw Texas and Oklahoma from the North and only host 3 conference games. Throw in any/every team in the B12 North's ability to drop a questionable game in the stretch and the Jayhawks should limp to a 5-3/4-4 mark, including a loss to the Huskers.
3. Colorado - Man, this was a tough call. I've had the Buffs placed everywhere from division winner to 4th and bowl-less. What makes the difference for me is the run game. They could possibly control the momentum in tight games, taking pressure off Hawk Jr. and a solid, but unproven defense. The big games might still be a bit out of Coach Hawk's reach and by losing the finale with Nebraska, Colorado should finish up with 4-4 conference mark.
4. Kansas State - This schedule is great for the 'Cats and their returning septuagenarian coach. They host 3 North foes and play Iowa State at a neutral site, meaning the game at Nebraska is their only true division road game. Replacing Josh Freeman is impossible and the O-line looks spotty at best. However, the Wildcats return 8 on D, which should be enough to get 3 league wins and possibly a bowl game.
5. Missouri - Double win seasons are over for the Tigers. Daniels, Macklin, and almost everyone else from those teams is gone, leaving a league worst 9 returners. Jared Perry and Derrick Washington can't win games by themselves and the defense will be completely rebuilt. This is the definition of rebuilding, and I was VERY tempted to pick Mizz to finish last, but I think they can edge out the lowly Cyclones...barely. A 2-6 mark will not be surprise.
6. Iowa State - What is there to say here, really? The Cyclones could have an improved D after the Auburn coaching swap meet, but even with 9 returning starters, the offense will most likely still be a bottom feeder. Yadda, yadda, yadda, no wins in conference. Well, maybe one.
Big Games : Why even bother with the details here.
Nebraska at Colorado
Nebraska at Kansas
Kansas at Colorado
Oklahoma at Nebraska
Kansas at Kansas State
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The Big 12 South. Outside of the top two spots, this has been a very hard division to pick. There's some serious competition through the ranks and all 5 teams might actually go bowling this season - yes, even lowly Baylor.
1. Texas - McCoy comes back behind an O-line returning a whopping 91 starts and most of the other skill players are set, too. The D-Line could be a potential weakness, losing 3 starters including Orakpo, but their biggest competition will be OU who lost A LOT up front offensively. So, that match-up should still fall in favor of the 'Horns. Behind the line, Texas is bringing back a loaded LB corp and only replaces one DB, making for a pretty stout D overall.
Outside of personnel, Texas will be playing with fire after being shafted last year in favor of the Sooners. Not only should they beat Oklahoma, but they'll be sharp-eyed against the upset in trap games. All this should add up to one heck of a season for the Longhorns.
2. Oklahoma - The Sooners put up some ridicutardulous offensive numbers last year with Heisman winner Sam Bradford and a VERY stout O-line. Well, Bradford's back, but the line is in disrepair. Without it, the Sooners won't be nearly as dominant as they were in '08. All that said, they're still only 1 of 2 teams with a Heisman on the roster, and that says a lot. Bradford's leadership will be the key to the O's success, but it might not be enough to beat Texas.
Aside from the RRR, the Sooners should roll and finish in the top-5 nationally. While I have them losing to Texas, it's not a given by any means. All that is a given is that the winner of that game will be division champ.
3. Oklahoma St. - Every year we hear about Stillwater's version of the 'greatest show on turf' and how their QB/RB/WR combos will be putting up monumental numbers en route to finally breaking through the Big 12 South stranglehold of OU and UT. And then?...it never happens. OSU's reputation reminds me a lot of any Houston Nutt coached team: any good season is a surprise, but leads to expectations that are never met. Some pundits say this could actually be the year as the D is the best it's been in years (especially the LB's), but the secondary looks soft and 6 returning starters doesn't sell me on being able to knock off the big boys. No, if the Cowboys are to win, it'll be behind their O-line which could be the best in the league behind Texas. If they can manage games well enough and not give up too many big plays on D, the Cowboys could win 10 games, but I think 8 or 9 is more realistic (I'm thinking 5-3 in B12).
4. Texas Tech - Let's all calm down on Tech now, OK? What do they do? They pass a lot, play a AA team or 2, score a billion points until they meet a decent defense, and lose 3-4 games a year. In '08 you had Crabtree playing on a team returning 18 and what did you get? 11 wins. It will not happen again. Leach's system can't establish a program that's going to constantly compete in this league. Taylor Potts will throw for 4,500 yards as Tech loses to OU and Texas big and blows it against OSU and a B12 North team or two. So, sit back and relax, and wave the Raiders off to the Holiday Bowl with an 8-4 record.
5. Texas A&M - The Aggies went 20 years without a losing season until 2003, but have had 3 since. The program has fallen off and the surrounding competition has gotten much better, with the two top tier B12 South teams leaving A&M in the dust. 2009 sees 10 starters returning on offense and the QB's should be more comfortable with the new systems. Defensively, the Aggies have their work cut out for them, returning 6 from last season's league worst unit. If they can manage to keep big plays down and stay competitive when they get behind, I see A&M upsetting a big boy somewhere en route to 6 wins and the post season.
6. Baylor - Baylor is Texas' version of Vanderbilt, just with a better QB. While it looks like the Bears should be improved enough to finish ahead of the Aggies, they're just as likely to fold under pressure as the 'Dores do and fall short of that crucial 6th win. The difference will be the composure of Sophomore Robert Griffin in winnable games. Handling their business properly in the first four non-conf games would leave only 2 conf wins needed to reach 6. Outside of Iowa St., there's no gimme, so if we're going to see all 5 South teams play post season ball Baylor will need to come through somewhere unexpected.
Big Games - It was pretty easy to pull them all from in-division, as the competition is so tiered.
1. Red River Rivalry - Obvious.
2. Texas at Texas A&M - A trap game and season-ending, in-state rivalry could have huge repercussions.
3. Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma - ditto.
4. Texas Tech at Oklahoma St. - Jockeying for position in the middle of the pack, these teams could be playing for a new year's day bowl.
5. Baylor at Texas A&M - Played this late, the winner will be bowling in late December while the loser watches on TV.
Monday, July 6, 2009
The West Champion will be...LSU. I just feel it. Sure, they have the toughest conference schedule and draw a brutal b2b swing with Florida and Georgia, but the rebuild/reboot was last season and the Tigers are ready. Now that the Ivy League experiment is over, the Bayou Bengals have a solid QB who will only get better as the season progresses and a VERY good LB corp heads up a very strong D. There's enough talent on this team (and parity across the board) for LSU to clinch the West and make it to ATL. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that LSU is a national title contender by any means, I'm just saying that they'll edge out the other 2-3 loss teams around them. It's more a matter of Ole Miss being overrated than great faith in the Tigers.
2. Alabama - I think it's finally time for 'Bama to again be successful in back-to-back seasons, and they've been waiting a long time for that. Saban is a great coach and is building a program that will be contending year-in and year-out...as long as he stays in T-town. The Tide's D returns 9 and will be among the nation's best, more than making up for some transitions in the offensive backfield. The schedule sets up nicely as well, as the challenging games are scattered around easier contests throughout the season and they have the oh so crucial bye-week before LSU.
3. Ole Miss - I'm just not sold on the hype. Their regular season record should look great, but that's mainly due to their cake walk non-conf games and a mere one or two losses in league play could throw them out of title contention. They do host both of the teams I've picked ahead of them, but I just don't believe it will matter. I've been around the Nutt-Bubble before at Arkansas and all the Sneads in the world won't change the mediocrity they're bound for in Oxford. Once again, don't get me wrong. I'm not pegging the Rebs for a losing season or even a drop off from last year, I just don't see them running to 10 wins. Sorry. As much as their gelling late last year and winning the Cotton Bowl was great, they still lost to Wake and Vandy and Texas Tech was mighty overrated. It just feels unrealistic to expect a championship run from this team.
4. Auburn - This was a tough call. Going into '09, Auburn and Arkansas are very even in expectations. I honestly see them finishing with identical conference marks (somewhere in that 3-5 range) and earning similar post season spots. So, it will all come down to the head-to-head on 10/10. As you can guess from the pick, I'm taking the Tigers. While the Hawgs are hosting, the game falls in a very odd stretch for Arkansas that includes UGA, a neutral TA&MU game, Florida and Ole Miss. Auburn, on the other hand, will be coming off a more even, and easier, run, which sets up nicely for them.
Even with Malzahn, the offense will be sloppy and stagnant early with a confusing QB/RB situation to figure out. It should norm out late, though, taking some pressure off of the D, which with Chizik at the helm, should be good as ever. It might not be enough to win the Iron Bowl, but it's enough for the Tigers to surprise some people on their way to an X-mas Bowl.
5. Arkansas - Read the Auburn entry before moving on.
OK, good. Now, Arkansas was much better than they were supposed to be (or deserved to be actually) last season. Petrino, the douche that he is, actually got a lot out of these Hawgs and should be poised, at least offensively, to really make some noise. Defensively, they only have to replace one player (S), but have a long way to go from finishing as the league's worst D in '08. Like Auburn, I see Arkansas finishing up with 6 or 7 overall wins and going bowling.
6. Mississippi State - Where to start? MSU returns the fewest starters in the league (10) and are coming off a year in which they had a bottom 2 offense AND defense. Ouch. Twice they failed to put up 100 total yards in games and finished with the worst ypg differential in the conference. They need an offensive mind to rebuild them, and Dan Mullen might be the man to do it, but it won't be done (or even started) any time soon. The Bulldogs will struggle to get to even 3 or 4 wins this season.
LSU at Alabama - The Saban soap opera aside, this game could be for the Wes title.
Alabama at Ole Miss - The Rebs want to prove they're for real and this will be the stage for it.
LSU at Ole Miss - A Rebs win might not send them to ATL, but it might be enough to punch Bama's ticket with LSU out of the way.
Alabama at Auburn - The Iron Bowl's always big, but the Tigers could be clicking enough late to REALLY ruin Bama's season.
Auburn at Arkansas - see the team picks above. This is a key game to decide pecking order, or maybe even bowl eligibility.
The East Champion will be Florida. They're just still too loaded. Tebow might well finish up his career near the top of the GOAT list and the D returns EVERYBODY and their backups from last season's league leading squad. Harvin is a significant loss, but not enough to slow the Gators down. The only problems facing this team are offensive scheme change and the conference in which they play. If a new OC and implementing some new I-set stuff in anyway throw the system off, it could have enough effect to keep UF from a ttile game. Same for the schedule. While the non-conf is maddeningly easy, there are enough landmines on the conf slate to forgive it. A loss in the regular season could keep the Gators out of the big game in favor of 2 undefeated teams that might not quite be as deserving as a 1-loss Florida.
Upset Special: at Mississippi State. It's the week before the Cocktail Party, in Starkville (where UF's traditionally played poorly), and then there's the Mullen factor.
2. Georgia - I just don't think that UGA will be that bad off in the post-Stafford/Moreno era. Cox is a winner with plenty of program experience and leadership and the O-line, if healthy, could be one of the nation's best. The defense should improve enough to keep the Dawgs right behind Florida and a repeat 9-3 mark wouldn't be a surprise.
3. South Carolina - This is a limb, I know it. But, for some reason, I believe in Garcia this year. Spurrier knows enough about the college QB spot to pick a winner (even from the huddled masses that SC recruiting lands him), and it's this kid's time to shine. I hate to put it all on his shoulders, but the D can only do so much to keep the Cocks competitive. If Garcia comes through and limits the turnovers, SC could top last season's 7 wins.
4. Tennessee - I really wanted to put UK here, but the Vols get the final nod. Why? Both teams will have similar records, but UT will beat the 'Cats late, nudging past them in the conf standings. Kiffin's first year might not meet the hype he (and the SEC media) has created, but they'll make it to the post season with either 6 or 7 wins. September 19 will be a hoopla with Junior in The Swamp and the Auburn-Georgia b2b run will be tough.
5. Kentucky - I cannot completely explain why I have so much faith in this team. They're picked last in the East almost everywhere else but there's something about them I believe in...at least enough to get 6 wins. Brooks is smart enough to incorporate Cobb into the offensive scheme to alleviate pressure on Hartline and O-line is bringing nearly 90 starts into '09. If the Cats can get 2-3 conf wins, they'll be bowling for Christmas.
6. Vanderbilt - The 'Dores are used to cellar dwelling and for good reason. Last year's 4-4 SEC mark was a rarity that won't be repeated as the ball won't bounce Vandy's way nearly as much as it did in '08. Rice and GA Tech are going to be tough non-conf games, the QB spot is still questionable and the defense won't be able to contain some of the more explosive offenses they'll face. While I'd love to see the 'Dores bowling again, it just won't happen.
Georgia-Florida in Jax., Halloween - Could decide the East champion, but will most likely just be a shot for the Dawgs to ruin a perfect season.
Tennessee at Florida, 9/19 - Kiffin taking his show on the road to the most hostile environment in the East. Meyer and the Gators are ready to DRILL the Vols for all the off-season drama, and that distraction might be enough to open the door to a UT upset.
Florida at LSU, 10/10 - This will most likely be a preview of the SEC Championship Game. Baton Rouge is a dangerous place in the fall, especially at night. Tebow will have to be sharp to lead his troops through this one.
South Carolina at Georgia, 9/12 - This game always sets the tone for the remainder of the winner's season. It's been close and defensive since the OBS took over at SC. This year should be no different.
Tennessee at Kentucky, 11/28 - This game could, in all reality, be for bowl eligibility. Both teams look poised for similar seasons and this season-ending showdown could be either team's crucial sixth win.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Aroo called me yesterday with the rumor that Georgia and Michigan were working towards setting up a home-and-home series starting at Ann Arbor in 2010. Apparently, the rumor started in an on-campus Michigan paper and spiraled out of control. This series would be awesome - and I've always had a soft spot for Big Blue - but it is VERY unlikely to happen. The first concern is that we're already going to Boulder that year. We have to play the return game with the Buffs in the series that started here in '06. Outside of that, with the neutral site Cocktail Party, UGA loses a home game opportunity every other year. That means we have to get all the home games we can and Damon Evans knows it. We will never - nor should we - play a mere five home games. Not only that, but the 2011 dance card is already full, so we'd have to do some serious finagling to work in this series.
Pretty much everybody, on both sides, is shooting this down now. Not because it wouldn't be awesome, but because it's just not going to happen...not that soon, anyway. Oh well, there's always a nice New Year's Day Florida Bowl Showdown possibility.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Here's the blog. So, Willie Martinez learned to defend the option attack from Dave Wannstedt, who coordinated the 'Canes D in blowout wins over Nebraska and Oklahoma 20 years ago. Here's the problem: Paul Johnson has thrown in more wrinkles and can match wits with any DC. Coach M. cannot rest on the ol' Backbone D of the eighties to stop Tech. He has to adapt and counter more effectively - and efficiently - to win. Another problem? (And this is a purely personal, gut-feeling): Playing in an offensive system like the flexbone/trip.ot. can be a bit boring at times. There's a lot of formulaic assignments to learn and execute, which can lead to unexcited players. Unexcited players lead to mediocre play and that's what we saw several times from GA Tech last season. What really sucks about this though is that they will ALWAYS be more excited to play us then we will be to play them. That's just how it is.
Oh yeah, and the bad tackling; It's being out-coached and arm tackling. This line sums it up best:
"The A-back blocking the safety, plus some bad tackling on Georgia’s part, also led to Tech’s last touchdown." True, true.