Friday, July 30, 2010

"My God, A Freshman!"

The Athens Banner Herald provided a sneak peek into the photo vault today. The subject? Why, none other than the greatest running back in the history of cfb, Herschel Walker.

Here's just one photo from the collection:

And of course, "He's running over people..."

Dyansty Update: CHAMPIONS!

Where Eagles dare, indeed. After the loss to Toledo, Ace Journeyman's Eagles ripped off six straight wins, earning a second appearance in the MAC Title game. Failure was not an option this season, as Eastern has been determined to win a conference championship all year; watching replays of last year's dismal MACCG performance, cleaning out shelf space for the August, and seeing motivational posters claiming: "EMU: 2012 MAC CHAMPS" in the weight room. And it all paid off. In a rematch, the Eagles took down the Ohio Bobcats, 13-7. This year's 11 wins is the most ever at EMU and matches the total of the last five seasons. The Championship earned the Eagles a bid for the Little Caesar's Bowl, where they will meet the 6-6 Penn State Nittany Lions.

However, Eastern might still be losing in the long run. Rumors have been swirling since Journeyman's first season that he'd be leaving Ypsilanti soon. And, now it seems definite. Several WAC and C-USA teams have been sniffing around the hot young coach, but there's been no confirmation of an offer made...yet. A win over Penn State could attract some BCS programs who have fallen on hard times, but either way, most fans are realistic that this will be the Ace's last game at the helm.

2012 Season:

at #19 Mich. State - L 14-20
Weber St. - W 56 - 27
at Pitt - W 31 - 28
Akron - W 25-13
at Kent St. - W 21-7
Toledo - L 13-21
N. Illinois - W 45 - 26
at Ohio W - 22-12
at Ball St. - W 16-10
at W. Mich. - W 25-15
Youngstown St. - W 42-7
C. Mich. - W 41-38

MAC Championship:
Ohio - W 13-7

Remaining game:

Little Caesar's Bowl
Penn State

Finally - EMU Knocks Off a Big Boy!

Ace Journeyman's record against top-25 teams might still be 0-4, but he's finally notched a win over a BCS foe, housebreaking the Pitt Panthers, 31-28. It was a tight game, coming down to a late EMU drive for the go ahead score and a defensive stop in the final seconds. Eastern's celebration ended quickly, though, as Journeyman wanted them focused for the opening of conference play. They handled the excitement capably, winning two conference games in a row. However, the newly soaring Eagles were brought back to earth, shot down by an undefeated Toledo Rockets squad who took advantage of the new found confidence in Ypsilanti. The reality check may have been just what the doctor ordered, though, as it could fuel the Eagles through the rest of the schedule...

2012 Season:

at #19 Mich. State - L 14-20
Weber St. - W 56 - 27
at Pitt - W 31 - 28
Akron - W 25-13
at Kent St. - W 21-7
Toledo - L 13-21

Remaining games:

N. Illinois
at Ohio W
at Ball St.
at W. Mich.
Youngstown St.
C. Mich.

Conference Blast 6 - The Big Ten

I'll be glad when this league gets their divisions and championship game. Right now, with teams missing two league members from the schedule every year, and no way to consolidate the standings like the 12-team leagues do, it makes it hard to predict order of finish. The only certainty for me is Ohio State running the table next year...beyond that, I did the best I could:

The Big Ten champion will be...Ohio State. This one's pretty simple. I believe it's Pryor's breakout season, especially if that Rose Bowl performance is any indicator and he's got a full cast around him, including nine starters and 93 starts across the O-line. Even with some key defensive personal gone, the Buckeyes return their top-two tacklers and should maintain their hold on the top spot.

2. Wisconsin - The Badgers have 10 starters back on a bruising offense that finished second in league play last season. They do open at UNLV (again?), and that could be a seaosn-opening shocker, but it will have zero effect on their conference standing. once they get into Big Ten play, that run game will be hard to shut down and the six starters back on D should be enough to keep it near the unit in the top 4 statistically. The biggest pit I see on the schedule is a road trip to Iowa, but even a loss there would keep the Badgers in the two spot, as I see Iowa stubbing their toe somewhere late.

3. Penn State - This one's pretty simple, too. The Nits avoid Wisconsin on the schedule and I don't see any way they're losing to Iowa three years in a row. Beyond that, the offense won't lose too much from last year's league leading unit, as they return eight, including RB Royster. The defense only gets back five, so they should slip from the top-3, but outside of Ohio State, I don't see anything that looks like a definite loss. Since it's the Big Ten, I'll say they could drop a screwy game late, like maybe Michigan State. Still, 6-2 gets you third place here.

4. Iowa - Sorry, Hawkeyes, there's just not enough voodoo. This could be the best defense in the conference next season, but the offense just can't re-create the same amount of sheer luck as they did in '09. Remember that offensively, Iowa finished tenth in the league statistically last year. QB Stanzi is back, but not much else, as only 36 starts returning along the line. Schedule wise, they draw all the big boys, missing Illinois and Purdue. Add it all up, and I see three conference losses. However, I see that same number for teams four and five here, so it still means a high finish in the pecking order.

5. Northwestern - The Wildcats return 13 total starters. That's not great, but it's not too bad, either. What is great for N-Dub, is getting to miss Ohio State. Honestly, the Buckeyes are the only opponent I see as a guaranteed loss in this league, as depth and parity
have clawed their way back into this league. Don't be surprised if the 'Cats open 8-0, but don't jump on the band wagon, either. All three of their conference losses will be in the last month: at PSU, hosting Iowa, and the season-ender at Wisconsin.

6. Michigan State - Like Northwestern, Sparty avoids Ohio State in league play. Also like Northwestern, Sparty gets 13 total starters back. How I decided who to rank where came down to the head-to-head on 10/30, and I'm taking Northwestern. An upset at Iowa or Penn State could bump State up a peg or two, but I see losses in those two games as well. However, I think there's a realistic shot that the Spartans could knock off Wisconsin on Oct. 2. It just might not be enough to counter the losses.

7. Michigan - OK, RichRod, you let me down here. I envisioned you shaking up the Big Ten like Spurrier did the SEC in the early 90's. Instead, you've won 8 games total in two seasons and your program seems to be falling apart around you. I think 2010 could be the year the offense finally clicks, with Forcier returning and the athletic Denard Robinson a great change of pace mix-in. Look for the Wolverines to put up the most points that they've scored in years. Defensively, Big Blue gets 8 returning and their second leading tackler, so we should see some improvement over last year's performance. While it won't be enough to compete for the conference title, it should be enough to get to a bowl.

8. Minnesota - I want to gamble on the Gophers again...I like the returning experience on offense (9 starters and 114 starts on the O-line), but the defense only gets two back - the safeties. Breaking in all new D-lines and LB corps is not my definition of fun. I do see the Gophers outscoring Illinois and Purdue, but drawing all the big boys will have them home for Christmas.

9. Purdue -The truth? This was the last spot left after I put everyone else where I thought they'd finish. They avoid PSU and Iowa, but eben that might not be enough toget them to a bowl. They could snipe a team or two from the middle of the pack (they always seem to), but I'm doubting it.

10. Indiana - Why am I picking them over Illinois? Because they're not coached by Ron Zook...j/k...kinda. In reality, they get back nine on offense, which could be enough to counter what's going to be a terrible defense. Now, I don't see Indiana bowling this year, but I do see them ruining Illinois' homecoming game...and likely sending Zook to the classifieds.

11. Illinois - ZOOK'd.

Dynasty Update: Where Eagles Dare - 2012

Rumors swirled all off season long but in the end, Ace Journeyman stayed at Eastern Michigan. Sources close to the program cite his desire to finish the drill and win a MAC title, but another poor recruiting class does not bode well. It will take every trick in the book to overcome the lack of talent in the cupboard, but Journeyman is ready, and walking around practice, it looks like the players have finally bought-in, too. Once again, the Eagles visit two BCS teams, but host two FCS squads in addition to their MAC slate. This could be the year...

2012 Season:

at #19 Michigan State
Weber St.
at Pitt
at Kent St.
N. Illinois
at Ohio
at Ball St.
at W. Mich.
Youngstown St.
C. Mich.

Dynasty Update: Not to be.

In what was arguably the biggest game in a generation for Eastern Michigan, the Eagles were outclassed. Syracuse won the 2012 GMAC Bowl in decisive fashion, shutting down everything Ace Journeyman threw at them and scoring 21 points off turnovers before the half. In the end, though, despite the 34 - 17 loss, this program has a lot to be proud of. Winning just zero games in 2009, nobody would have predicted a conference title appearance and back-to-back bowls in rising star Journeyman's first two seasons at the helm. However, many in Ypsilanti fear losing the hero of the day, as the school and the coach failed to hammer out the details of a contract renewal and representatives from Texas Tech were seen on campus. With a single season left in his contract at EMU, heat from interested programs across the nation, and unfinished business in the MAC, all we can do is wonder what will happen in the off-season.

2011 Season - 9-5 (7-2)

at Michigan - L 19 - 34
Eastern Illinois W 43-13
at #10 Penn St. - L 24 - 41
at Akron - W 24-23 OT
Kent State - W 14-3
at Toledo - W 28-27
at N. Ill. - L28-35
Ohio- W 24-14
Illinois State - W 49-21
W. Mich. - W 26 - 7
Ball St. - W 21-10
at C. Mich.- W 24-21

MAC Title Game
Temple - L 7-24

#20 Syracuse - L 34-17

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dynasty Update: Title Game, Bowling, and Awards

The Eastern Michigan Eagles held on for a close win over rival Central Michigan, earning a spot in the MAC Title game. Though they were over-matched by the soaring Temple Owls, coach Ace Journeyman was proud of his team. Journeyman was honored with the Coach of the Year Award for the turn around he's sparked in Ypsilanti. The Eagles have a slight chance at 10 wins if they play well in the GMAC Bowl against heavily favored Syracuse. Rumors are already circulating that several mid-major schools, as well as a couple of BCS programs, are interested in luring Journeyman away from Eastern. Right now, though, Ace is trying to quiet all the talk and focus on getting prepared for the biggest game for EMU in almost 25 years.

2011 Season - 9-4 (7-2)

at Michigan - L 19 - 34
Eastern Illinois W 43-13
at #10 Penn St. - L 24 - 41
at Akron - W 24-23 OT
Kent State - W 14-3
at Toledo - W 28-27
at N. Ill. - L28-35
Ohio- W 24-14
Illinois State - W 49-21
W. Mich. - W 26 - 7
Ball St. - W 21-10
at C. Mich.- W 24-21

MAC Title Game
Temple - L 7-24

Remaining Game:

#20 Syracuse

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Conference Blast 5 - The PAC 10

I really want no part of picking this league for 2010. USC has been hit with all kinds of off-season drama, but still has a full cupboard. Oregon looked like an easy pick to repeat, but then their off season shenanigans muddled the picture further. It could be an opportunity to go out on a limb and make an outside call: Arizona, Stanford, Oregon State, but neither one has anything that screams conference champion. How improved will UCLA or Arizona State be? Will Washington keep building? Is it Harbaugh's time? All these questions had to be answered before I made any picks...and honestly, I'm not sure about any of the answers or conclusions I've reached. Except Washington State. They're terrible. Anyway, the PAC-10 has eight or nine honest bowl caliber teams and all are jockeying for rank in a tough conference. I did the best I could:

The PAC-10 Champ will be...Oregon - Despite the loss of Masoli, Thug-U Lite returns 9 to the offense. Even without the laptop-pilfering QB, the Ducks have 2 solid options under center, Nate Costa or Darron Thomas, either of whom could helm what's sure to be the league's best offense. Defensively, Oregon improved last season and with 8 starters back, could break the top-3 in conference. Schedule wise, things look OK for the Ducks. They get most of their tough opponents at home, but do travel to USC with the Trojans coming off a bye. I won't be surprised if they lose that game, but the men of Troy should lose a couple, so I'm still calling it 8-1 and a conference title.

2. Oregon State - Yes, once again, the Civil War could be for the Rose Bowl. The Rodgers boys are back, along with 6 other starters, creating nightmare match-ups for opposing defenses and taking pressure off of sophomore Ryan Katz. But, offense hasn't really been the problem. Last year, the defense surprised me. With 7 starters back, look for more improvement. There's really not much that separates the two Oregon teams, which makes December 4 even more important. I see the Beavers splitting b2b road games at Arizona and Washington, knocking off USC and carrying one loss into a winner-take-all Civil War. In the end, I'm taking the Ducks, but it's close.

3. USC - Wow, I cannot remember the last time the Trojans were not the obvious number one here. Honestly, though, I'm a little nervous putting them this high for 2010. I know the talent's there; they've been sticking whole classes of 5-stars for almost a decade. But, there's just been too much swirling around the program since December, and they're coming off of a VERY down year for Troy. I know the players will be motivated to get back to the top, but with Carroll gone, the figure head's gone and I just don;t think Kiffin's the man to replace him...yet. Not only that, but there's only 10total starters back and the rest of the league is catching up. Let's face it, it was the perfect time for Pete to bolt to the NFL. I think the record is better than in screwy '09, but only because the league will straighten out a bit; I'm thinking 7-2...maybe even knocking off the Ducks.

4. Stanford - Here comes the traffic jam; I see three teams vying for this 4th spot. The Cardinal loses the runner up in the closest Heisman race ever in Toby Gerhart, but sophomore QB Andrew Luck is more seasoned and should be able to handle the added pressure. He'll have an additional 7 starers back with him, including all but one of his lineman. And, I imagine Jim Harbaugh will have the other RB's ready for 2010. There's a solid seven back on D and the schedule breaks decently...I just don't like the quality in the middle of this conference. Last year, 3 teams ended up 6-3 in conference play, and I see a similar thing brewing for this year. Stanford needs to be careful at Washington and they play Oregon and USC back to back, as well as ending the season with Oregon State. I see them knocking off someone near the top, but losing to either Cal or U-Dub.

5. Cal - This where I'm going to pick Cal forever more. Low expectations? The Golden bears rip off a surprising 10 win season. High expectations? They finish 6th or 7th in the conference. So, there's no Jahvid Best for 2010, but there are 8 other back around QB Kevin Riley. Offensively, the Bears should be able to hang in most of their games. But, defensively, they look over-matched by 2/3 of the league. They finished eighth in the league statistically last year and only return 6 starters. I had them picked much lower before I remembered what Tedford does when underestimated, so call it 6-3 and right in the thick of things at the middle of the pack.

Arizona - I wanted to pick the Wildcats to win the league, but then I remembered that Nebraska Holiday Bowl. Ouch. I do like Nick Foles at QB and the eight returning starters joining him, they just can't shut down when they hit a little opposition. With the extra maturity, I don't see that being a problem. Defensively, they only return 4 to a middling unit, but they've improved every year under Stoops, so I'm not too concerned. The 'Cats draw bye weeks before both Oregon schools and host USC, but it might be asking too much for them to knock one of them off. Instead, they need to focus on b2b road trips to UCLA and Stanford, because two losses there would knock them further down the conference ladder. I see them winning 6 conferece games and possibly knocking off Iowa in the non-conf. to reach 9 wins overall.

Washington - I would have liked to put the Huskies higher, but there's too much mid-level parity. Jake Locker is a bona fide Heisman candidate and leads an incredible ten starters back on the side of the ball - which is Coach Sarkisian's specialty. The defense finished near the bottom in '09, but should be improved, with eight starters back and a better grasp on the system. Everything points to a breakout year in Seattle, but the Huskies struggle on the road and 4 of their 5 away games are against teams rated higher than them. Still, though, they'll be better tha last year's 5-7. More like 7-5, 5-4 in conference. But, don't be too surprised if they knock off a big boy or two and finish higher.

UCLA - This low finish has more to do with the conference parity than lack of faith in Neuheisel's squad. Last year, the Bruins had a very stout defense, and while they return five, I see that slipping in 2010. Offensively, all of the skill players return, but it still might not be enough to break into the top of the league. The schedule is brutal, with a tough non-conf. to open (KSU, Houston, Texas) and road trips to Cal and Oregon making it hard to get ahead in a tough conference. The season-ending loss to USC should drop the Bruins to 4-5 in conference, but UCLA could still get to a bowl.

Arizona State - Not yet, Dennis Erickson. AZ St. ranks 116 out of 120 FBS schools in returning experience, with a measly nine total starters back. The Sun Devils did lead the league in defense last year, but that bright spot should fade in 2010, while the offense remains just as bad, having lost almost everybody. However, 2011 could be a breakout year in Tempe.

Washington State - I'll say zero wins.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dynasty Update: Close Calls and Big Wins (7-3)

Note: I'm playing A LOT of NCAA right now, blitzing through a season every two days. That's due in part to the newness of the game and partly because I go back to work next week and all this extra free time will be gone. So, let's just enjoy it while we can, shall we? On to the 2011 EMU update.

This season has been a major improvement over 2010. Playing two FCS teams helped greatly, but overall, the team just feels improved. Coach Journeyman did lose his starting QB in the Toledo game, but the backup has done well - he's not as fast, but he's got an arm - and the passing game bailed Eastern out a time or two this year. Even in the BCS-team blowouts, it seemed the Eagle splayed better, better preparing them for conference play. Speaking of, EMU has only lost one MAC game so far (28-35 to NIU) and it looks like the season-ender with Central will be for the West division title. There were two one-point escapes, but the last game against rival Western Michigan as been the most complete game of Journeyman's short career. The division title was Ace's goal this year, so the Eagles will need all the support they can get in an already tense rivalry game that has so much riding on it. But, let's not overlook Ball State; EMU could nose dive a down the home stretch just like they did last year...

2011 Season - 7-3 (5-1)

at Michigan - L 19 - 34
Eastern Illinois W 43-13
at Penn St. - L 24 - 41
at Akron - W 24-23 OT
Kent State - W 14-3
at Toledo - W 28-27
at N. Ill. - L28-35
Ohio- W 24-14
Illinois State - W 49-21
W. Mich. - W 26 - 7

Remaining Games:

Ball St.
at C. Mich.

Dynasty Update: 2011 Preview

It's time for Ace Journeyman to start his second season at the helm of the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Last season saw flashes of success and bouts of dismal failure, as the Eagles pulled out of a late season nose-dive to break even and make the program's first bowl in 23 years. This year sees road trips to giants like Michigan and Penn State, but also home tilts with FCS teams Eastern Illinois and Illinois State. Journeyman has his eyes set on a division crown and nothing less will satisfy he just needs the team to buy in. Let's kick-off the 2011 season!

Click to Enlarge. Thanks to HW1 for the idea.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bowling and Building

Eastern Michigan got that magical sixth win. With a 5-6 record, coach Ace Journeyman's Eagles hosted the Huskies of Northern Illinois. Despite injuries at the skill positions, the offense finally clicked and Eastern got their most convincing win, 30-16. That sixth win earned Journeyman's squad an invite to the Eagle Bank Bowl to face Navy. It was the school's first bowl since 1987 and only their second ever. Despite being blowout by the Middies, 38-14, the fan base was thrilled the relative success of 2010 and is looking for great things in years to come. Recruiting wasn't great, but Journeyman's hoping for good things in 2011.

2010 Season Wrap-Up - 6-7 (5-3):

Army - W 17-7
at Miami (OH) - W 19-7
Central Mich. - W 24-14
at #9 Ohio State - L 7-35
Ohio - W 24-18
at Vanderbilt - L 14-35
at Ball State - W 31-28 OT
at Virginia - L 0-26
Toledo - L 7-45
at Western Mich. - L 17-7
at Buffalo - L 24-21
Northern Ill. - W 30-16

Eagle Bank Bowl
Navy - L 38-14

Not Getting it Done (5-6)

Four losses in a row. That's what Ace Journeyman's accomplished at Eastern Michigan. The last two games have been close, but the Eagles have come up short in both. Dropped passes and a key turnover broke open a tight one with rival Western Michigan and a blown 21-7 lead sparked Buffaloes' comeback. Not only is EMU losing ground in the MAC West standings, but some fans are losing faith in Ace's coaching ability. It doesn't help that the starting QB and highest rated WR have both been lost to season-ending injuries in the last two games, either. At 5-6, that elusive sixth win is still possible, let's just see if Eastern can get it done. There are three years on the current coaching contract, and EMU does not exactly have a history of success, so Journeyman should have a little wiggle room and another season to create real improvement.

Army - W 17-7
at Miami (OH) - W 19-7
Central Mich. - W 24-14
at #9 Ohio State - L 7-35
Ohio - W 24-18
at Vanderbilt - L 14-35
at Ball State - W 31-28 OT
at Virginia - L 0-26
Toledo - L 7-45
at Western Mich. - L 17-7
at Buffalo - L 24-21

Remaining game:

Northern Ill.

FSU's Nigel Carr: Offseason Ironman Award Winner

UPDATE: Apparently, it was only three felonies. The other things listed are misdemeanors. Still, though, this guy was busy...and yes, UGA is back on top the Fulmer Cup.

This kid has the off-season drive that defines a champion. Five felonies? Impressive. Orson did a funny write up in the newest Fulmer Cup standings...btw, Georgia fans, don't get too happy, we're in second place. Of course, ours are mostly alcohol fueled hijinks, including 3 points for an ousted AD. We're the obnoxious, rowdy kids day-drinking, binge-style, bothering your casual business meeting at the bar in Chili's...Carr and his ilk are the guys in ski masks robbing the bank next door.

The fact that it's a Seminole reminded me off the always classic Tim Wilson/Bobby Bowden parody..."but we got good kids."

There are also some great digs on Spurrier in there. Enjoy.

Avengers Assemble!

It's not football related, but it's freakin' cool. The full cast of the upcoming Avengers movie was assembled at Comic-Con this weekend.

Here's the pic.

Iron Man, SHIELD Agent Coulson, Black Widow, Thor, Captain America, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, and the Incredible Hulk...all in the capable hands of Joss Whedon. I hope it doesn't suck - because it certainly could. You throw in the potential cheesiness of Captain America, the potential lameness of Hawkeye on screen, and the potential floating turd that could be Thor...well, we better pray to Odin this shit gets done well.

Conference Blast 4 - The Big XII North

Once you get past Nebraska, this is a tough division to pick. No team pops out as one that can compete with the Huskers on the field, much less for a division title. There are a lot of returning starters across the division, which makes it hard to pick the order of finish, and it's hard to know who's going to be a surprise (Colorado?) and who will fall flat ('09 Kansas). Let's start with the easy call:

The Division Champion will be...Nebraska - 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 defensive success of the heyday is back. Nebraska returns the second most starters in the Big-XII, including nine on a steadily-improving offense. Defensively, Jared Crick might not be Ndomakung Suh, but he should fill the hole left nicely. NU gets a bye heading into league play and the schedule falls favorably with no Oklahoma and the toughest road game being at A&M. the Texas game will be big, but even if they lose it, Nebraska should dominate the North and make a second consecutive B12CG.

2. Missouri - Me, last year: "...I think they can edge out the lowly Cyclones...barely. A 2-6 mark will not be surprise."Missouri last year: 8-5. I really didn't think Pinkel was this type of coach, able to keep the Tigers winning despite the losses they suffered in '08. This year, Mizzou has eight returning on offense and eight on defense - a great core on which to continue building. QB Blaine Gabbert had a great season in '09 and if they find a playmaker athlete to complement his arm, look for double digit wins. The Tigers draw Oklahoma and Nebraska back-to-back, but if Mizzou recovers for the late stretch, look for 5-3 and second place in the North.

3. Colorado - Man, this was a tough call. I've had the Buffs placed everywhere from second to fifth and bowl-less. Last year, I chose the Buffs third, putting faith in their running game, which turned out inconsistent at best. Throw in the nepotistic QB situation and the offense finished dead last in the league. But, call it persistent stupidity, I think the Buffs might e able to pull it together this year with 10 starters returning on offense, including 109 along the O-line. Defensively, seven returners should be enough to bump the Buffs up from eighth to the top half of the Big-XII. There's no Texas on the schedule, but Oklahoma and Nebraska are still out of Coach Hawk's reach. Still, Colorado should finish up with 4-4 conference mark and a bowl game.

4. Kansas State - The winner of the Sunflower Showdown gets the fourth spot, and after some waffling, I went with the 'Cats over the Jayhawks. Picking KSU here doesn't really fit my decision making paradigm, but call it a hunch. There's only five starters back for the offense, but it'll be enough to improve on their 10th in the league statistical finish in '09. The defense should be solid enough to maintain their middle of the pack standing. I see 4 conference wins, but all before November, as the home stretch includes Texas and two road trips to better teams (Mizzou and Colorado).

5. Kansas - Turner Gil has his job cut out for him. Last year, I picked KU second in the North, but the Jayhawks paid me back by winning one conference game and finishing up in the basement. Todd Reesing kept the offense respectable, but he's gone and new head man, Gil, is breaking in a new system. One saving grace is the schedule. From the South, Kansas draws A&M, OK St., and Baylor - all winnable. In-division, they get a Colorado team recovering from Oklahoma at home and a bye heading into their in-state tilt with State. Still, though, I got burned by the Jayhwaks last year, and I don't have enough faith to support both them and Colorado. Call it 3-5 and Christmas with the family.

6. Iowa State - I was impressed with Rhoads' initial success here, but F this year's schedule, State. They're the only North team drawing Texas and Oklahoma and play Utah and Iowa out of conference. So, while they might be an improving team, the schedule dooms them. Kansas is a winnable game, but it's book ended by Texas and Nebraska. The offense should be good, returning eight, including dual threat QB Arnaut, but it won't be enough to get to a bowl against this murderers row.

Big Games :

1. Texas at Nebraska - A rematch of the '09 B12CG and chance for Nebraska to punctuate their farewell to this league. That scrapped "Beat Texas" video clip will certainly make it's way across Austin airwaves this season.

2. Missouri at Nebraska - The Tigers come calling between cupcake road games and if the Huskers aren't vigilant, this could be a season-spoiler.

3. Oklahoma at Missouri - Here's a chance for a North team besides Nebraska to make some noise. If OU falls into this trap, it could derail a national championship.

4. Colorado at Missouri - Pecking order.

5. Nebraska at Colorado - Ah, the season ending trap game. The Huskers could be playing for something big by this point, and one slip up in focus and the Buffs could ruin all their hard work.

The Honeymoon's Over (5-4).

Well, 3-0 was nice while it lasted, but things have certainly evened out for the plucky Eagles of Ypsilanti. In the last 6 games, EMU (5-4) is 2-4, including blowouts on the road to three BCS opponents: Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and Virginia. There was a close conference win at home against Ohio and an overtime win at Ball State...but then the disaster: A blowout loss at home to divisional foe Toledo, 45-7. With three games left, all against conference opponents, the goal of a divisional title has taken a back seat to simply reaching 6 wins. The fan base still seems happy with Coach Journeyman, though, and that makes sense given Eastern's zero-win total in '09.

Army - W 17-7
at Miami (OH) - W 19-7
Central Mich. - W 24-14
at #9 Ohio State - L 7-35
Ohio - W 24-18
at Vanderbilt - L 14-35
at Ball State - W 31-28
at Virginia - L 0-26
Toledo - L 7-45

Remaining games:

at Western Mich.
at Buffalo
Northern Ill.

Sidenote: I gotta be honest here, this team SUCKS. Also, EA needs to patch the dropped passes. I understand it happens, but not 10 times a game. Anyways, I doubt any big schools will be calling for Ace after this season.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Sherriff in Ypsilanti (3-0)

Ace Journeyman is off to a good start at Eastern Michigan, leading the Eagles to a 3-0 record in the first three games. So far, the offense is spotty and still needs some tinkering with, but the defense has been solid. On the upside, we've been able to control the tempo of each contest up to now...but the downside is that the first three opponents have one combined win (1-8). If that's not bad enough, we have a road game at #9 Ohio State coming up this week. I don't have big aspirations of upsetting a big boy already, but there's a realistic chance EMU could compete for the MAC West.

Army - W 17-7
at Miami (OH) - W 19-7
Central Mich. - W 24-14
at #9 Ohio State - ?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To NCAA '11...and Good Friends!

I'm addicted to EA Sports' College Football game. I've been playing some version of it since it was Bill Walsh's Football back in the early 90's. I usually get the new addition as soon as it's available, but not this year. Oddly, I've been putting it off, but my friends came through in a major way (again) this past weekend. While we were out celebrating Jinx's birthday, I got surprised with an early birthday gift of my own: this year's NCAA football. I want to say thanks again; I truly have some of the best friends in the world.

Now, I dedicate a great deal of my free time to this game. I dropped off a bit from '05 - '08, but for '09, I tracked my individual dynasty here on FTS and updated the online dynasties I played with several friends. Last year, Create-A-School, a feature I love, returned and spent a lot of time creating teams in the buildup to the game's release. The result? I took the Coyotes of Anderson University from a lowly cupcake Sunbelt program to a national powerhouse and perennial SEC contender in a shade under 20 seasons.

This year, I will once again be tracking my Dynasty right here on FTS. The dynasty will feature a coach, Ace Journeyman (clever, huh?), and his career-long quest to become one of the greatest coaches of all time. Ace's first job is at struggling Eastern Michigan. Does he have what it takes to turn the Eagles around? Will he one day move on to a bigger program, win national titles and become a legend? Or, will he fail to rebuild a poor program, and fade away into anonymity? I guess we'll have to wait and see...

As far as the game is concerned, it seems a little tougher than before. I'm playing on All-American, and the defense seems better able to adjust to play style and predict play calls than I've seen. Throw in nine dropped passes in one of my first games and it's been rough going, offensively anyway. Defensively, things seem OK - my first taste of action was a UGA win over Akron, 27-0. I hope it's just a slow start because I'm getting used to the new tweaks, but right now, I'm dreading what's to come trying to get any output from the cellar-dwelling Eagles of Ypsilanti.

Makin' Picks

Les Miles at Media Days:

That is all. Have a good weekend and Happy Birthday to that muthafucka, JINX.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

USC: Reggie Bush Worse Than OJ

Maybe that's not what they meant, but it sure seems hilarious that number five has been removed from the pantheon of retired jerseys, but there stands ol' number 32, untouched. I understand the urgency with which new AD, Pat Haden, is acting - it's just funny is all. Not funny in that "haha" way, but in that "maybe Reggie Bush is just one in a long line of offenders who are guilty of the same rules transgressions, but he's certainly not a double-murderer." Of course, OJ is like USC's Herschel Walker, and he could murder my parents and I wouldn't want his jersey taken down.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Agent Profiteur

UPDATE: Marcell Dareus will reportedly be ineligible for 2010. If there was even an ounce more competiton in the SEC West, I'd have to revise Conference Blast 2. I will say, however, that this might put a 5th BCS Title in a row out of reach for the SEC.
UPDATE 2: Now it might be at Georgia. Rumors have arisen that UGA's highest rated pro-prospect was at the now notorious party in Miami. Green denies it and Michael Moore does his best to assuage concerns with this tweet: “Hahaha. This talk about A.J. is hilarious. That country boy ain’t never been to Miami!!! You can put those rumors to rest.” There's not any witness corroboration on the green rumors - yet - and it's likely that this is indicative of the name-calling to come, unsubstantiated or not.
There's a new casualty in the inappropriate agent-contact web spinning out of UNC: Alabama's Marcell Dareus. His name goes on the list with Marvin Austin, Weslye Saunders, Maurkice Pouncey, the infamous resolution to the Reggie Bush case, and back to Dez Bryant's suspension last season. And, supposedly, there's a few more ready for the pyre and the net keeps spreading.

Over the last few years, as the rumors were swirling around USC, I heard a lot of loud-mouthed SEC fans making fun of the situation in Troy. A smart fan would have kept his lip bit, though, because anyone with a functioning brain and the slightest touch on reality would have known that this had to be here in the SEC, too - and probably on a more massive scale. But, that depends on SEC fans being somewhat smart, or objective, and we just aren't those things. So, now the glass house is shattered and here we are among the shards praying our team's not next.

Well, guess what - it's happened on your team. It's happened on everybody's team, if I had to bet. Maybe it hasn't happened at Georgia, but that's only because everybody's too busy drinking and going to jail. Kidding - it's totally happened here, too. But, if you're lucky, it might not get leaked and you can continue with business as usual. Of course, it's business as usual that's the problem. A coach, staff, AD, school, etc. cannot do it alone - the monitoring of other professional agencies has to fall somewhere else, or at least a share of the responsibility does.

This article had a good quote from Nick Saban:
What the NFL Players Association and the NFL need to do is if any agent breaks a rule and causes ineligibility for a player, they should suspend his license for a year or two...I’m about ready for college football to say, ‘Let’s just throw the NFL out. Don’t let them evaluate players. Don’t let them talk to players. Let them do it at the combine.’ If they are not going to help us, why should we help them?

I couldn't agree more. Like Blutarsky pointed out:
The painful reality here is that the NFL is having its cake and eating it too right now. It’s got a terrific player development system in place for which it doesn’t pay a dime. And agents contacting high level college players doesn’t affect that one bit.

While it might be a while before we reach any real resolution on this issue, or get the NFL to hold up their end of the deal, maybe now we can at least get everyone to shut the fuck up with all the mud-slinging against other schools/conferences when it comes to inappropriateness. Especially here in SEC country where we are - in good and bad - the kings of the sport.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Do you mind if I do a line?"

"Fuck it. Let's all do one."

Just for fun, here are some waaaaay too early lines out of Vegas, courtesy of Phil Steele:

Georgia Bulldogs:

-1' at South Carolina
-3 vs Arkansas
-7 at Colorado
-12' vs Tennessee
+7 Florida (Jax)
+2 at Auburn
-4 vs Georgia Tech

The Over/Under for UGA victories: 8.5. With the given lines, I'd take the over.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Conference Blast 3 - The Big 12 South

Round three of the conference round-ups take us to Big 12 country. Just like the SEC, we'll take it a division at a time. Unlike the SEC, which has a healthy trade-off between East and West dominance, the Big 12 has been ruled by it's southern division, two teams in particular: Oklahoma and Texas. To make it worse, as soon as Nebraska looks like they're coming back to prominence, the league begins crumbling, with the Huskers headed to the Big Ten. Ph well, more on that in the B12 North addition.

The Big 12 South Champion will be...Oklahoma: The Sooners' '09 season fell apart after Bradford went down, but that will help them this year. How? Landry Jones. If he hadn't had to step up last season, he'd be grossly inexperienced coming in to 2010. Instead, he's started 10 games and helms an offense with 8 returning starters and a MUCH improved o-line. And, DeMarco Murray should finally be healthy and as it stands right now, if he remains injury free, he's a legitimate FTS Heisman candidate. This offensive strength is why I'm ultimately giving OU the nod over Texas. Defensively, the Sooners will be good, but Texas will still be top dog there. Oklahoma only returns 5 on that side, so expect a slide from 3rd overall in the Big12 to somewhere closer to the middle of the pack. Schedule wise, the Sooners don't have cakewalk, but Cicny won't be as tough as in '09, Florida State comes to Norman, and Nebraska's off the slate. Call it 8-0 and a division crown.

2. Texas - It was vary hard to pick against the Longhorns, but int he end, experience will carry OU past Texas. And not just at QB: according to Phil Steele's formulas, Texas ranks 108th nationally in returning experience. McCoy was the winningest QB in cfb, so he'll never be replaced, but it would be nice if there was a proven RB to take pressure off of Gilbert and the O-line was a touch more seasoned. Defensively, the Horns might be the best in the nation as they return 8 to a unit that topped the Big12 and finished 3rd behind 'Bama and Florida. Even if they returned half that, Muschamp would have them in fighting shape, so watch the D to carry a game or two. Texas gets a bye week between the RRR and Nebraska, so they'll split them en route to a 7-1 finish in league play. While I have them losing to OU, 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. Texas A&M - Watch for a breakout year in College Station. The Aggies fielded the league's second-best offense last year and, using the UGA paradigm, there's no way the defense will be as bad as '09's last in conference rating. Now, I'm not calling for A&M to challenge OU for the division, but you never know about that tilt with Texas and the rest of the schedule sets up well for the Aggies to improve on last year's 6 wins. Jerrod Johnson, Christie Michael, and the leading receivers all return as does most of the line; they will continue to put up points and yards. The defense returns 9 and should be more comfortable and confident. I know it's a bit of a limb, but I'll call for 5-3 in league and maybe even a New Year's Bowl.

4. Texas Tech - There's a lot of talk about how bad this situation is for Tuberville, but on the surface, it'll be barely noticeable. Think about it: How did leach do here? Pretty much 3rd or 4th in the division every year. Watch Tubs do the same thing, despite using the Dread Cap'n's recruits and changing his pass happy system. Tech returns a healthy 14 players, but it won't mean much with new systems on both sides of the ball. Thank god the rest of this division's going to be bad enough to make TT look OK his first year at 4-4 in league.

5 - Oklahoma State - Things will be rough in Stillwater this year. The Cowboys are dead last in returning experience: 4 on offense, 4 on defense, and twelve combined starts across the O-line. Ouch. Remember all those names you heard last year off this team? Well, they're gone. All of them. I think the Pokes can beat Baylor and K-State, but the rest of the South and Nebraska are probable losses. Call Kansas a toss-up and OSU goes 3-5.

6. Baylor - I really want to pick the bears ahead of OKState, but I just can't. Despite the lack of returning experience in Stillwater, they still have better athletes to draw from...except at QB. I put all my faith in Robert Griffin last year and he went down to a season-ender in week 3 before the Bears limped home with one conference win. That will improve this year, but not much. Griffin does come back, but I'm not betting on him to carry this whole team, at least not until next year. The schedule is rough, with no bye-weeks, but if Griffin stays healthy, look for an upset or two, maybe even enough to pull them out of the cellar.

Big Games:

1. Red River Rivalry - Obvious.

2. Texas at Nebraska - A rematch of the '09 B12CG and chance for Nebraska to punctuate their farewell to this league. That scrapped "Beat Texas" video clip will certainly make it's way across Austin airwaves this season.

3. Texas at Texas A&M
- A trap game and season-ending, in-state rivalry could have huge repercussions.

4. Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma - ditto.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No More 2-a-Days for the Dawgs

Richt has decided to drop two-a-days for the upcoming practice schedule beginning on July 31. And, as the ajc points out, it might not be the Bear's brand of football, but it's the next logical extension of the cutting back on preseason practices that has already happened the last decade. I think this is a good call. With more practice you might get tougher, but with one-a-day you have more opportunities for training and learning, which seems crucial to implementing a new defensive system, kickoff philosophy, and a QB learning the offense.

Ivan Maisel echos that support in today's Three=Point Stance:

Georgia coach Mark Richt’s decision to drop two-a-days is a victory for practicality over tradition. Richt believes that he can accomplish more by practicing and teaching than by instilling the toughness that two-a-days instill. Whether two-a-days make players tough or are just done because they’ve always been done is a question for others to answer. If Georgia stays healthier and plays well this season, two-a-days may go the way ationof the I form.

The only thing I take exception to in that quote is the last line. I'll have you know, Mr. Maisel, that the Coyotes of Anderson University ran the I-form all the way to back-to-back National Titles in 2019 and 2020, sir.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bobby Johnson Resigns

UPDATE 2: Johnson probably has the best 29-66 in the history of cfb. He coached at a school with low rent facilities, high academic standards, no athletic department, and the fiercest competition in the sport. He defeated every East team besides Florida, though 2005 was close, and always seemed like a stand up guy and truly caring coach. It is bad timing for Vandy, who'll face the season with an interim-HC, but it seems like it was the best option for Johnson, and he's earned the right to stand down on his own terms. I only hope it's not his health or a family member's that sparked the sudden resignation.
UPDATE 1: Confirmed. Still no reason given.

ESPN's newest info
Rumors are flying that Bobby Johnson has resigned as head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores. There's no additional info or reasoning on why he would leave. I certainly hope there's no undue pressure form the school. Coaching at Vandy is straight up hard work. You cannot expect regular winning seasons and bowls while balancing the academic demands of the institution and playing in the meat grinder that is the SEC. Johnson handled himself and his team with aplomb, even getting Vandy to -and winning - their first bowl game 25 years. More likely, it's personal reasons perhaps, unfortunately, even health related.

RIP George

George Steinbrenner died yesterday. He was arguably one of the greatest owners in pro sports and certainly one of the most controversial. I didn't know he got an early start as a football coach in Big Ten country. But, he was also a multi-million dollar booster to the Florida Gators, so fuck him (just kidding...sort of...). Anyway, this is how I'll always remember him:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Conference Blast - The SEC West

There are some trends in this division carrying over from last season. Just like last year, Alabama will be the best team in the division and, just like last year, there's a team in the west that everybody is drooling over as a surprise contender...and, just like last year, I ain't buying it. In '09 it was Ole Miss, who was supposed to win the SEC West and contend in ATL. This year it's Arkansas. And while the prognosticators aren't picking the Hogs to win the division, they're everybody's surprise team "darling." Well, the Rebels went 4-4 last year and I see the same thing in Fayetteville's future. But before we get there, let's get the easy part out of the way.

The West Champion will be...Alabama.
This is pretty easy. The only weakness is that only 2 starters return to the defense. But, last year, they only had 4 back on offense and actually improved. Now, I'm not saying that'll happen this year for Smart's squad, but I am saying that this is a program that does not seem to ever regress. Arkansas and South Carolina could be toe-stubbing road games - and those trips book end a home tilt with Florida - but 'Bama will find a way through. What might take its toll is the six of Alabama's SEC opponents will be coming off a bye, which could result in a loss, maybe two. So, while I might not take the Tide all the way to the BCS Title game, I will take them all the way to Atlanta.

Side-note: Really, Alabama? Georgia State? It's their first year and you bring them into Tuscaloosa? For shame.

Upset Special: On the road at South Carolina - it's just like whenever an East team has to hit just sneaks up on you.

2. Auburn - I'm putting a lot of faith in the 15 returning starters and the breaks in the Tigers' schedule. Malzahn has 111 starts returning on the O-line, which should help ease the ease the transition at the RB and QB spots. And, while the offense might slip from last year's production, the defense should be greatly improved from the league's 3rd worst in '09. Overall, I hate to put this much stock in a second year coach with Chizik's record, but last year's 8 wins was a helluva a surprise and I just don't see LSU or Ole Miss taking the second spot. I'm thinking the Tigers will end up 5-3, splitting their season-enders with UGA and 'Bama.

3t. LSU - Here it is, Les Miles, your last chance - if the Bayou Bengals slip in 2010, not only will I not put my faith in my picks, but he'll be looking for a new job. There's too much talent on this team to finish lower than third in the West. Jordan Jefferson's back and they should finally get a stable running game, lifting Crowton's unit out of offensive stats cellar. The defense should hold steady under Chavis and do enough to keep the growing offense in close games. Not only that, but the schedule's nice: LSU gets a tune up with an FCS school heading into Auburn and bye before 'Bama. Of course, they could lose both of those game without anyone paying any mind, it's the end of the year that's the true measuring post. The Tigers close out with Ole Miss and Arkansas b2b. If they split those games, they could be OK, but if they drop both, especially on coaching gaffs (ahem..spike play?), they'll likely drop to 5th in the West, and Miles (and Crowton) will be packing.

3t. Arkansas - Yes, there's a 3-way tie for 3rd in the West here; I'm predicting a glut of 4-4 league records and one of those awful team a loses to team b who loses to team c who loses to team a who...well, you get it. So, what makes Arkansas so great? Nothin in particular. They do have 1o starters back on offense, including Mallet, but they can't produce much more than they did last year. The defense finished 2nd to last in '09 and I don't see much improvement on deck. Yes, Jerry Franklin is a good player, but he cannot carry the entire unit and there won't be repeat of the +15 TO's from last season. Weak defense and less big breaks equals 4-4, even with Mallet's skill and amazing offensive numbers.

5. Ole Miss -I'm guessing 4-4 for the Rebels. Why? Houston Nutt. There are only 10 returning starters, same as LSU, but Ole Miss lacks the talent depth stored in Baton Rouge. Six of the returners are on defense, three along what could be one of the league's best D-lines. Conversely, there's a paltry 22 starts coming back in the offensive trenches and Nutt will be breaking in a new QB. However, the schedule breaks favorably for the Rebs and they host State in the season ending Egg Bowl - all that should be enough to push them past the Bulldogs in the West standings.

6. Mississippi State - Not yet. But by next season, Mullen will have things right in Starkville. This year, however, the Other Bulldogs, will still be building. They're breaking in a new QB and RB, but most of the O-line returns. Defensively the line should be solid, but they're aren't any breakout players. Last season, State improved from dead last in both overall offense and defense to ninth, won 5 games, and hung in with Florida. Look for them to keep building on that, upset someone along the way to 3-5 in the SEC and a return to a bowl game.

Big Games:

Auburn at Alabama, Nov. 26 - The Iron Bowl is always big, but there;s a distinct possibility it could decide the West this year.

Florida at Alabama, Oct. 2 -
This is a rematch of the last 2 SECCG's and could have post-season implications. A loss to UF could end a repeat NC campaign for the Tide and a loss in T-town could be enough to put Florida in danger of losing the East.

LSU at Arkansas, Nov. 27 - The Battle for the Boot has become an exciting season ending rivalry. This year, it most likely won't settle the top of the West, but it could go a long way towards bowl pecking order...or securing Les Miles' fate.

Arkansas at Auburn, Oct. 16 - For some reason, I think this one's gonna be a lot of fun.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"The Decision"

I know that we don't talk about "hoops" that much on FTS but the last couple of days has really got me thinking. Before we continue, understand that my opinions are based on an NBA fan from '85 to '98 (the glory days of basketball). The NBA hasn't been talked about this much at this time of year since Shaq went to the Lakers. I think that this is a good thing, however, from Wednesday to today my feelings on the situation have gone back and forth a lot.

Just like everyone else, I was waiting and wondering, checking the ticker. Although I thought there was NO way he was leaving Cleveland, it was a fun pastime. Then I saw Wade and Bosh went to Miami. No big deal, I figured that would happen. Then I saw that LBJ was holding a 1 hour special on ESPN to announce what he was going to do. Really? A little more ego-maniacal than I thought he was but whatever. And then I saw that the $ collected through the sponsors was going to the Boys & Girls club; ok I can get behind that.

So the show starts and, by the way, does Stuart Scott suck at life or what? The LeBron strokefest begins, but what else is it really supposed to be? I had been hearing all day that he was leaning towards the Heat and it just made me think of the Celtics a couple of years ago. A good idea that paid off for some older dudes trying to get their "ring". But while watching the show I began to feel myself dislike LBJ more by the second. He was smug and just seemed like an unfeeling robot to me. I assume that I would be this way if everyone in my entire life was on my nutsac all of the time, but I thought he was different; someone worth looking up to for more reasons than just insane b-ball skills. Wrong. Yes, he is going to take less cash but doesn't the FL no state income tax just about make up for that? I also know that athletes are villanized for taking the money when they should want to play to win it all (I'm looking at you Joe Johnson). What really did it for me was when he said, "Who knows, maybe we can find the next LeBron in the Boys & Girls club." Really? Could we be so lucky? Then I turned it off before Stu Scott could bob on him any longer.

I want them to fail and fail miserably. Why you might ask since I proclaimed myself an NBA fan? Because they aren't really taking less money and if they don't win at least 3 titles in 6 years it will be a failure. With that said, I think this is great for the NBA. I for one will be rooting against them every night. Oh yeah, the intro they had last night was RE-diculous. Why didn't Trick Daddy come out and perform too? I know I sound angry but I am happy about one thing, none of these guys will EVER be like Mike, Magic, Bird, Sir Charles, 'Nique, etc. My childhood stars will shine brighter alone than these guys ever will together.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Conference Blast: The SEC East

It's time for the Preseason Conference Round-ups! First up, the SEC. This is a much harder conference to pick this year than it was in '09, as the East is more open than usual and the line order behind 'Bama in the West may as well be a pick 'em. Well, go ahead, scroll down, and get ready for a surprise right out of the gate...

The East Champion will be...Georgia? Optimism thy name is ME. I had Florida here right up until it was time to publish this post, but at the last minute, I just couldn't keep them. So, why Georgia? Well, it's a matter of lightening not striking twice. The Dawgs had the 7th ranked D in the SEC, but they were 12th in points allowed, pass yards surrendered, and yards per play. Even with a new system being implemented, it has to be better than that this year. Which brings me to the last stat UGA was dead last in: turnovers. Not only were they 12th in the SEC, they were 119 out of 120 across the FBS. That can only get better. Now to the offense. Georgia returns 10 starters and the O-line is poised to be among the nations best (155 combined starts). They'll be blocking for an inexperienced QB in Murray, but he'll have 2 good RB's to alleviate the pressure and the run game should set up some play action to AJ Green, arguably the best WR in the nation. Throw in the best kicker and punter in cfb and a more aggressive kick-off scheme and a 6-2 league record is not out of hand. Plus, with Florida down a bit, that should be enough for the Dawgs to take the East.

Upset Special: The Dawgs better click early if they're going to get through SoCar and Arkansas b-2-b. A loss to one of these teams wouldn't be a surprise, but it also wouldn't derail the season if the ship's righted quickly.

2. Florida - With Tebow gone, Florida will be changing gears offensively and they only return five on D. While that doesn't spell disaster for the Gators, it certainly doesn't guarantee the top spot either. Brantley will be eased into the QB spot against Miami, OH to open, but USF is no push over and going to Tennessee and 'Bama in the first month won't be easy, not to mention that LSU is right behind the Tide. Brantley should do fine with the system adapted to him a bit, but the defense might lose a step, allowing teams to get closer than they could the last 2 years. The bye before Jax should help UF against UGA, but I see them dropping 3 games in what will be a bit of a rebuilding year, much like the post-Leak '07 was.

3. South Carolina - Per last year's pick: "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." Honestly, I feel the exact same way this year. There are 9 back on O and 7 on D, Spurrier has been a but higher on Garcia this off season, and the defense should remain solid. If that can't get them back to at least 4-4 in the league, than I don't know what can. They don't get a Mississippi school out of the west, but, once again, I'm putting my faith in the OBC at the 3rd spot.

4. Kentucky - This is another dicey call, but I'm picking the 'Cats over the Vols. UK draws both Mississippi schools from the West, along with a hard-to-peg LSU team. Beyond that, they get 3 winnable games in a row and then a bye before the season-ending rivalry game with UT. I know they lost a great deal of talent and are breaking in a new coach, but the system hasn't really changed much and Newton and Cobb will do enough to keep the offense competitive. Big Limb: Kentucky beats Tennessee, finally, after 25 years.

5. Tennessee - Only 13 combined starts return across the O-line (compared to UGA's SEC best 155). Ouch. It gets worse: Three returning starters on the offense and six on D. Last year, Tennessee was the definition of middle-of-the-pack, finishing sixth in the SEC in overall offense and defense. They won't even be that good this year with all the attrition and a new coach. The Vols do get a bye before 'Bama, but the first half of the schedule doesn't break well for UT, with Florida, UGA, and LSU in league and the big non-conf. with Oregon. In the end, I think it will be harder for Tenn. to get back to a bowl than UK.

6. Vanderbilt - I'm afraid the 'Dores are heading into a 1-11 meat grinder this year..and that 1 won't be in the SEC. While they return most of their skill players, the O-line's bringing a scant 20 combined starts and only five players come back on D. That does not add up to improvement and Vandy was already dead last in almost everything last year. Needless to say, it could be a long season in Music City.

Big Games:

Florida at Alabama, Oct. 2 - This is a rematch of the last 2 SECCG's and could have post-season implications. A loss to UF could end a repeat NC campaign for the Tide and a loss in T-town could be enough to put Florida in danger of losing the East.

Georgia - Florida (Jax.), Oct. 30 - This will likely decide the SEC East.

Georgia at South Carolina, Sept. 11 - This is always a tone-setter. A loss here could derail either team's hopes of a great season. It's been decided by 7 or less points 4 of the last 5 years and Spurrier still gets a kick out of kicking the Dawgs when he can.

Arkansas' trips to UGA and USC: While I'm not on the Hawgs' bandwagon, they could certainly be a thorn in any opponents side. Whatever damage they do in these 2 trips across the Mississippi could go a long way towards shaking out the final East standings.

Kentucky at Tennessee, Nov. 27 - The winner could go bowling, while the loser at least gets to spend Christmas with the fam.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Steele Toe-to-Toe, Part 2

Phil Steele's at it again today, picking the first five games mentioned on his wall. From what I can tell, it's going to be OU-Texas, Arkansas-Georgia, Arkansas-'Bama, Oregon St.-TCU, and Mich.-ND. I'm working up my picks and I'll post 'em along with the King Pigskin Prognosticator's later today.

1. Oklahoma vs Texas, Oct 2nd

Last year OU had a 311-269 yard edge despite losing QB Bradford on the 2nd series to injury and playing with an inexp OLine. I needed Texas to win that game and had to sweat that out start to finish and felt fortunate to come away with the 3 point win. OU now is the team with the more veteran QB. Texas slight edge on D, OU has the edge on offense and special teams. Oklahoma 24 Texas 21.

Honestly, I wouldn't label either of these kids as "veterans" in this game. Jones has played more games and Gilbery ahs BCS Title time, but the RRR is a whole different animal. Call it for the Sooners, 21-20 with a big TO or ST play making the difference.

2. Arkansas at Georgia, Sept 18th

Last year the Hogs had a great situational edge as they were off a bye with basically the whole months of August and Sept to prep for GA and and the Dogs were off a tough trip to Okla St and a tough HG vs SCar and playing a 3rd straight week. GA won 52-41 on the road (Ark led 21-10). Ark... has the more veteran QB but Dogs at home and pull out a tight one. GEORGIA 37-33

At first, I wanted to call this close, but the more I thin about it, I'm leaning more and more heavily towards Georgia. It'll be in ATH and, while the Dawgs will be coming off SoCar, I think they'll be ready. The defense and TO margin cannot be worse this year than in '09(more on that in the UGA preseason piece), and the QB situation might be improved. Throw in a striong running game and more playmakers and it comes down to containing (or at least outscpring) Mallet. Georgia, 34-23.

3. Alabama at Arkansas, Sept 25th.

Last year Ark went all out vs GA and lost and were flattened by Bama the next week with Mallett struggling on the road all year and he was facing a Tide secondary with 7 of thier top 8 back. This year 7 of the top 8 are gone and Bama's young secondary will take on their first exp QB of the year and Ark is at home. This one could be an upset special but for now.. ALABAMA 31-30

I might want to re-pick this later, but I'm pretty sure 'Bama wins walking away. I wanted to pick Arkansas on the reasoning that the Tide might be looking ahead to Florida, but I just can't. Not yet, anyway. Tide, 30 - 20.

4. Oregon St vs TCU, Sept 4th.

Arlington Texas is not a neutral site. Three things have been very consistent under Mike Riley. 1. They usually finish higher in the Pac 10 than what I forecast 2. Exp'd QB'd fare much better than 1st year QB's in his system 3. Ore St struggles on the road the first month of the season. TCU is legit and will be sky high for a BCS conf foe led by a 1st year QB. TCU 27-13

I was as on the TCU wagon as you could get without being a Horned Frog last year and they let me down in the Fiesta Bowl. The D played well, as it always does, but the offense was MIA. Steele's roght about the Beavs on the road early, though. They haven't played well in an away game in September in over 5 years. This year, though, with USC and Oregon's troubles, I have Oregon State picked as an outside conference title contender and they return 15 here's to taking a chance: Beavers 23, Frogs 16.

5. Michigan at Notre Dame, Sept 11th.

There have been 6 straight outright upsets when these two meet in South Bend! UM is just 2-8 in road openers. LY MIch got a TD with :11 left to pull the upset at home. It is my #3 Most Improved Tm vs my #5 MIP tm. UM rates a slight edge on offense while ND has the defense and home edges. Notre Dame 31-27

Not a game I would have chosen to pick, but, what are you gonna do? I'm taking the Wolverines to make it 2 in a row, knocking off the Irish in South Bend. I think the Kelly system will barely be clicking and (despite their own issues) Michigan will be together enough to exploit that. We need to get past South Bend as a great home team advantage; it hasn't been in 5 years - just ask Navy. It'll be close, rather pedestrian, and somewhat boring until the 4th quarter: Michigan 29-28.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Steele Toe-to-Toe

Keep an eye on Phil Steele's Facebook feed this week. He's decided to take requests and pick games for the upcoming season. Twice this week, he will pick the first five games mentioned on his wall. This finally got me into the spirit of the preseason, so I'll match my devastatingly inferior insight and skills against his and pick the same games. Maybe this is what I need to get into the swing of things again and write up the 2010 conference blasts.

1. Florida at Alabama, Oct 2nd.

Alabama has a young defense but just took on Ryan Mallett of Arkansas on the road last week so should be better prepared forBrantley (2nd road start). This has been the SEC title game two straight years. Both teams are Top 10 ...on both offense and defense. Give Alabama the home edge and a 30-27 win.
I thought I liked the call, but I think I can see Florida upsetting the Tide in T-town by right around the same score. Brantley will already have a hostile crowd under his belt (UT in week 3) and I see 'Bama still tweaking their D a bit.

2. Oregon at Tennessee, Sept 11th.

Tennessee has the large edge of the heat and humidity of the South vs a team from the Northwest. Oregon has the edge of having a much deeper and experienced team with 17 ret sts from LY's bowl squad. Tenn has their 3rd HC in 3 years and suffered a lot of attrition and has just 9 ret sts. UT takes it to the wire but...OREGON 27-20
Nailed it. If Oregon hadn't become the new Thug-U this off-season and lost their key starters/focus/discipline/etc., I'd call for a blowout, but the Ducks will be a still be a little scattered and the 100,00 Vols won't help.

3. Texas at Nebraska Oct 16th.
Texas has my #1 rated defense and the Huskers my #5 rated unit. This will be a low scoring hard hitting game. Last year NU came within seconds of beating the Horns and NU has an improved offense over LY while Texas has a young QB and is switching from the spread offense. Nebraska gets this one at home 17-13.
I like it, but I'm afraid Texas will bring more than that offensively. Plus, they might be coming off a loss the week before (Okl.) and I don't see the 'Horns dropping b2b games in '10. Texas, 20-10.

4. Notre Dame at USC, Nov 27th.

Forecasting this game in advance is very dicey and really depends on USC's frame of mind. If the Trojans lose 5 more players to transfer prior to the year then crumble this up and toss in trash. If they do not lose any more than they could be using an "Us against the World" mentality and have a shot at being 11-0 for this game. Call it USC 27-20 but that is with no more transfers.
Forecasting any game this early is dicey. I don't see either of these teams being 11-0 by this point, especially since the Trojans' pre-season keeps getting worse and worse. No matter what, though, USC has better talent to draw from and Kiffin's system is no different than Carrol's, while ND is trying to break in Brian Kelly's new everything. The chips are stacked against the Irish, but I'm calling an upset in LA: ND, 24-21.

5. Boise St at Virginia Tech, Sept 6th.

This is a true national title elimination game and both deserve to be in the Top 10. While this is a "neutral" site it is right in VT's back yard and Boise must fly across the country. VT has a tremendous backfield and being the lower ranked team will feel like the underdog. Last year they whipped Miami Fla in a similar situation. Virginia Tech 30-27.
I'm taking VA Tech 37-20. I'm even leaning towards a 20-point plus win on this, but that would require the Hokies to score more points than I think they can. I'm happy we get this game early, as it should help us shake out some issues: Boise probably shouldn't be considered a title contender, and neither should VA Tech if history's any indicator. So, hopefully, VT knocks Boise out of the race early and VA Tech drops its usual 2-3 down the stretch. Anyway, jet lag and a hostile crowd should do the Broncos in at Fed-Ex Field.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Evans Out? Looks Like It.

The AJC is reporting that Damon Evans has been relieved as UGA's athletic director. The official announcement should come Monday.

When the news first broke about Evans' DUI arrest, I honestly thought it was no big deal. And, if it had been a run-of-the-mill arrest, I'd still think that way. But, once the arrest report hit, you just kind of knew everything was different now. Now, I'm not much on regulating morality. But, I do think you need someone as AD who's not putting his program through the spectacle that Evans has. This really sucks, too, because I've always liked DE as AD. However, you lose my support when you try to use who you are to get out of trouble, try to bribe an officer, and then sob like a bitch when you know you're going in. After reading those details, I think we all knew he was done. DUI's happen - momentary slips in judgment, confidence in one's abilities, or simple convenience - we've all done it. What isn't a slip is how a man in control of a hundred million dollar business comports himself.

There is some humor here, though: When asked why his companions panties were in his lap, Evans said: "She took them off and I held them because I was just trying to get her home."That's a hilariously stupid defense and will at least give us something to chuckle about when we look back on this.

Of course, the mugshot's pretty hilarious in itself:

Perhaps the biggest impact of this sordid drunken drama is what happens to the football program. As Orson Swindle pointed out: "...changing ADs ain't good for coaches. Ever."

If Richt helms a season similar to last year, the foam-mouthed morons will begin to gain more leverage in their arguments to depose the dean of SEC coaches. It's certainly arguable that there have been a few disappointing seasons, but it's more arguable that Richt deserves more than just this next season to prove re-establish himself. A new AD might not be as friendly to a coach already on the hotseat and be looking to make a name for himself by cleaning house and saving a sinking ship.

UPDATE: Orson makes another good point about the change in AD's. Damon Evans is largely responsible for the quality schedule that Georgia's been playing lately. He doesn't shy away from BCS opponents in the non-conf. and has set us up to travel across the nation in big time match-ups: Stillwater, Boulder, Tempe, and Eugene to name a few. A new AD might not be so friendly to this idea and use the template most of the rest of the SEC does:
Second, Evans has been highly aggressive in scheduling real live road games and out-of-conference matchups for Georgia, something that even through the haze of rivalry we laud as exceptional among SEC teams. If Evans stays, Georgia will continue to play the kind of schedule men admire, children respect, and ladies feel in their pants. If not, then potentially we see a downshift in their scheduling valor if the successor thinks differently. The difference would be a net loss for the SEC as a whole since some people haven't stepped up in his department EYEBALLING YOU FOLEY.
Very true.

: Clay Travis had a funny comment via his twitter feed: "Damon Evans reportedly out as UGa AD. What if his BAC comes back at .07? Worst decision not to breathalyze ever?"