Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dynasty Update: Welcome to the B1G (3-5)

EDIT: I think I should take a sec here to clear something up: This team is bad. I imported Eastern Michigan's roster to make this the rebuilding job it truly needed to be to be loyal to the show, which leaves the Eagles as a D overall with D's in both defense and offense. So, you know, bad. I'm playing an online dynasty on All-American difficulty - yes, I'm scared of Heisman - and the gap in talent is starting to show.
After a nice tune-up game against Akron, Minnesota State kicked off conference play with four straight losses. The Eagles led Penn State 13-3 at halftime, but couldn't keep up, eventually falling 16-13. The competitiveness of that game excited many in the Screaming Eagle fan base, but any positivity was washed away by two back-to-back home ten point losses against #3 Ohio State (27-17) and #4 Nebraska (31-21). Spirits were low the next week as State went on the road to #12 Wisconsin and it showed. The Badgers pounded the Eagles, grinding out over 300 rushing yards and holding the MSU to under 200 yards of total offense in a 31-13 shellacking. The Eagles now sit at 3-5 (0-4) and Hayden Fox is two losses away from having a losing season. While it's understandable he would struggle, finishing in the cellar of the conference will certainly count against his job security. On the upside, the hardest part of the schedule is over and State gets Purdue, Illinois, and Northwestern up next; the three teams have a combined 5 wins so far in 2011.

High-caliber programs like Nebraska and Wisconsin have proven a bit much for lowly Minnesota State.
2011 Schedule (3-5, 0-4)

Baylor W 24-20
at Missouri L 14-17
Ball State W 31-21
at Akron W 42-0
Penn State L 13-16
Ohio State L 17-27
Nebraska L 21-31
at Wisconsin L 13-31

Remaining Games:

at Purdue
at Northwestern
at Michigan State

Revisiting 2010's Preseason Poll

Man, oh man, was I way off on some things in last year's poll. I had Ohio State and Oklahoma pegged for the BCS Title game, Auburn way down at no. 17, and Georgia (6-7) in the top ten. I did have Oregon at four and predicted undefeated TCU in the Rose Bowl - but, in the end, it was an embarrassment. But, it was equally as embarrassing as what the "experts" thought. Here's my 2010 preseason poll compared to the AP preseason poll along with the final rankings from January.

More Expansion Rumors.

This is up over TeamSpeedKills: Apparently, ESPN doesn't respect Dan Beebe's authority. Despite the conference's stance that the Longhorn Network airing high school football is a no-no, the worldwide leader had signed a contract for two high schools to play a televised game. What all this means is that now the expansion rumors are swirling again, but this time the dance partners may have changed a bit.
"A&M comes to the SEC obviously, though this time Missouri would be its partner. The SEC still wants Oklahoma, but it supposedly doesn't want Oklahoma State. So, the two Oklahoma schools plus Texas Tech (and potentially Baylor) are looking to the Pac-12, while the two Kansas schools are making eyes at the Big East. Iowa State, which goes unmentioned, is presumably SOL."
So now the SEC adds Missouri and A&M and either sits at 14, or looks east for two more new friends to make 16. OU, OKST, and TXTech head west - and if the Pac-12 was smart they'd leave Baylor the hell alone - and could still have a potential spot open for a 16th team. The Big East becomes even more of a powerful Bball behemoth and Iowa St. looks for WAC or MWC invite. Not mentioned here is the B1G. Where do they expand? Who do they want? I see them hitting the Big East and the ACC (Syracuse, Rutgers, Maryland) and making one last run at Notre Dame that will fail, especially with Texas lending credibility to the idea of independence.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting to know the Coaches

ESPN's Page 2 collected responses to a survey of questions from every SEC coach this week. The big chiefs were in Bristol post-media days for ESPN's SEC days on Monday and Tuesday. The questions are as predictable/lame as you can imagine, as are a lot of the answers, but there's some fun to be had in there. Here's a list of the questions and some key highlights from the coaches' answers.

Which SEC stadium has the most hostile environment? Most coaches either picked their own stadium or gave a blanket "well, it is the SEC" response. Lame. The only two credible guys who picked their own are Miles and Muschamp - those are tough places to play.

What's your biggest superstition? Most of the guys claim they're not superstitous and the few who say they are mention pretty basic stuff: dressing the same every game, sticking to routine, or eating the same meal. One that stood out was Nick Saban's because it makes him seem kinda human:

"I am superstitious. The year we won the national championship, my daughter used to give me a penny before every game. There were a couple of times where she'd gone out the night before and I didn't see her, and I'd leave before she got up. And we'd have to meet in the tunnel before the game so I could get my penny. And it worked 14 times in a row. That was a superstition that I kind of enjoyed and she felt like she was making a great contribution to what went on. I always wear a straw hat to practice. I have one hanging in my office that looks like it wouldn't be fit for a scarecrow to wear. Because when we were winning, I wouldn't change hats. Every now and then, I throw them on the ground, so they take a beating."

Another one that stood out was Mark Richt's: " I can't think of a thing really that I do that would be considered superstitious." Come on, Mark. It's 2011 and you still ask an imaginary man in the sky to look over you - that's pretty old school superstitious.

Do you have a must stop restaurant that you have to hit if you're nearby? This one was actually pretty interesting; you get to see some of the variety in backgrounds in some of the guys: Mullen (New England), Phillips (San Fran), Richt (Miami), and Franklin (Philly).The lamest? Gene Chizik, hands down. His one must have, go to place is...Papadeaux. He talks about the cajun/creole dishes he likes there, and then when asked by the surveyors if he would still prefer it even if he was actually in Louisiana, Chizik said, "Probably." COme on, guys.

What cliche is most overused by coaches? The answers here are as cliched as the cliched questions about cliches. But, Spurrier's was kinda interesting; he said, "The two words that I try not to use are "great" and "football."" How do you possibly get by not using the latter? Walk it off, there's no crying in our sport of prolate spheroid moving.

Who's the best dressed coach in the conference? This was better than I though it'd be. We learn that Dooley has Barbara-sized closet full of shoes and Muschamp calls Saban out for his 2003-era Cosby Sweaters. The new guy, Franklin, got a lot of votes, too. I think my favorite line, though, was when Page 2 told Saban about Dooley's and Muschap's cracks about his wardrobe: "That's my boys. That's what I've got to live with. Those guys." Sometimes we forget how close some of these guys are and the connections they've had in the past.

What's one of your favorite songs, or name your favorite musician. These guys' musical tastes SUCK. There's a lot of Kenny Chesney and Chizik apparently loves Neil Diamond. Saban's the biggest offender with his undying dedication to the Eagles. The most interesting is Joker Phillips: "I used to listen to a song when I played from Morris Day and the Time called "777-9311." I don't know why. Just because I liked the sound and the beat of it. I listened to that one before I played." He is the ONLY person who got pumped up for a contact sport with Morris Day and the Time. I prefer Tupac's sample of that song, by the way.

What was your first coaching job and how much did it pay? It's all pretty typical.

Who was your favorite athlete growing up? A lot of STaubach's and Namath's. Richt was particulalrly obsessed with Broadway Joe: "Joe Namath, without question, was my hero. I had a picture of him in my wallet. As I laid my head on my pillow, there was a little desk drawer next to me, and it had Broadway Joe's picture there.: Easy, kid. Chizik and Phillips go off-sport and both pick Dr. J. Saban (Roberto Clemente) and Miles (Mantle) went baseball.

What's the strangest thing anyone ever said to you in a post-game handshake? Derek Dooley wins this one hands-down: "Well, I had 15 postgame handshakes, and I don't know if you know that. We only played 13 games. I was 8-7 in them." Ouch.

Annual FTS Preseason Poll Disclaimer

I've been doing personal top-25 preseason polls for years now, ever since I discovered the world of preseason mags way back in middle school (thanks Athlon and Lindy's). Every time I did it, I caught myself placing teams by where I thought they'd finish, not what I thought of their talent/coaching/etc. in comparison to other teams. So, I'd scrap it and start over...then I'd think about schedule and fatigue and bye-weeks and realize that in the end, I was going to end up with teams sorted by where I thought they'd end up anyway. Then I'd fish the crumpled up original draft out of the trashcan and finish it. Then I'd stick it in the inside cover of one of the magazines and there it'd sit all season long. God they were terrible.

Why am I telling you this? Because I still pretty much do the same thing. Only now it's electronic and left up online for the world to see all season long; to make folks laugh with picks like '09's Rutgers or '08's Auburn. Even now, in 2010, almost 20 years later, I start out confident, slip-up, re-do and re-re-do, scrap it all and start over, then end up with something close to the first draft. And when it's all said and done, it still ends up based on where I think a team will finish in the final polls. So, it's not an indicator of how I'd actually vote or even what the FTS poll will look like through the season. Is Boise State truly more talented than the teams ranked behind them in other polls? I personally don't think so, but I'll have the Broncos high in my rankings too, their predicted 11-1 a much better accomplishment than LSU's probable 8-4...though I'd take the Tigers head to head...maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it's better too not think too much about it, or else risk admitting how pointless this whole preseason poll thing is.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Herschel Headlines New ESPN Series

ESPN special content development unit earned high praise with their award-winning 30 For 30 series and now they've announced a new series called 'Storied.' Apparently, the focus early on will be the SEC; the traditions, legends, rivalries, etc. The series will premiere on Sept. 7 and what better subject to kick it off with than Herschel.

We all know about his success on the track and the football field, but how 'bout that poetry, huh? /sarcasm. But, in all seriousness, he should win some type of award for trap muscle development.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From All Over

  • Northern Illinois' AD wants to play a game at Wrigley Field. The Huskies are playing at Soldier Field in '11 and '12, but are planning beyond that. Hey, maybe they could play Northwestern in the Metro-Are Who Cares Bowl. I kid, I kid. I think it's cool they're trying to incorporate Wrigley, but they honestly do not need to play football there until the safety concerns are addressed and they game can go in both directions without killing someone. Soldier Field is a great alternative. It can host football safely and it keeps the college level of the sport connected to a major, historic city. I mean, without these games in Chicago, 2 of our 3 biggest cities would not host major cfb games.

  • The above story makes me feel like LA takes cfb for granted.

  • Andrew Luck looks like a young Matisyahu with his new beard.

  • All-everything super star QB Gunner Kiel  chose Indiana over Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, and a slew of other top-level programs. He still has his senior year to play at East HS in Columbus, IN, but looks to make an instant impact for the Hoosiers. All this begs the question: WHY CHOOSE INDIANA?! Have they even had a winning season in the last 15 years? I think that new coach has gotten into the inappropriate benefits game; somebody call Dan Wetzel. Actually, the truth is much more boring - his older brother plays for the Hoosiers.
  • Best line from EDSBS this week: "clear eyes, full hearts, can't not finish 7-5." #NCState.
  • It's a shame about Jaylen Rose. I was finally getting used to him being EVERYWHERE at ESPN.
    • Butch Davis has been fired. Earlier this summer, it looked like he might survive. It seemed UNC was doing all they could to assuage any NCAA doubts and clean house while still saving Davis' job. It was like the anti-Tressel treatment; stand by the coach and hope we all come out clean in August. But, in the end, a coach is replaceable and three or four seasons on probation is not. So, Butch gets sweater-vested and everyone in Chapel Hill hopes the investigators go away. In the meantime, don't look for any double-digit win seasons for the Tar Heels anytime soon.
    • Stay tuned for the FTS PreSeason Poll and a couple of 're-thinks' on some of my conference blasts (lokking at you, Texas).

    Dynasty Update: The Fox Era Begins (2-1)

    Well, it took a while to adapt to the little changes in control in this year's edition, but the FTS DYnasty has officially started. It actually started last week, but I've been sidetracked with the newest DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, Old World Blues. But, now that the Courier is back in the Mojave, I can focus on NCAA. Another new thing that's taken a little getting used to is using the Online Dynasty feature for a single-player career. The last two seasons, online dynasty has allowed the player to recruit, check stats, and sim his career from any internet connection. It also provides quick headlines, box scores, and in-game highlight pics. It's pretty cool and I imagine it'd be a great tool for a commish of a multi-team league.

    Anyway, on with the Screaming Eagles. Hayden Fox's first game at Minnesota State was a toss-up, with the Eagles hosting the Baylor Bears. Fox's pro-style, I-heavy, run-based attack was slow to get to started, but RB John Gaston soon found room out of the backfield. Luther Van Dam's defense held the Bears for most of the game, but two big plays resulted in touchdowns. It took a last-minute drive for the Eagles to go up 24-20 and seal the win.

    Backup RB McClain breaks a long run against Baylor.
    Week 2 found State on the road at #22 Missouri - Fox's first true test as head coach. The Eagles were heavy underdogs, but fought hard. Despite racking up almost 300 rushing yards, they just couldn't put up enough points, and fell to the over-worked Tigers, 17-14. Week 3 was an early season cruise against Ball State. Two Cardinals TD's make the 31-21 score closer than the game actually was.


    Since the summer's coming to a close, I had to actually leave the house and go to an actual place of work today. While I worked, I was listening to the Scott Van Pelt Show; they're in the midst of Pac-12 days and were talking to coaches from the conference's South division today. They also spoke with Commissioner of the Future Larry Scott, and he had some interesting things to say. I don't have exact audio quotes or a transcript, but the gist of what he said was that he was certain that another round of conference expansion is not far off and that he feels it's only a matter of time until we see the Super-Conference movement. I think he's right.

    Come with him if you want to live...through conference expansion.
    Before the Big-12 made their call on the Longhorn Network, there were new defection rumblings coming out of College Station. The Aggies choice for a new home? Why, the SEC of course. And the rumor mill has Oklahoma as a likely moving partner; the Sooners also wanted out from under the 'Horns new media shadow before the arbitration. For the SEC, it's a great move picking up the Texas-market and a traditional, storied powerhouse.
    But is 14 teams enough? Scott mentioning super-conferences has set off the tingling nerve of 16- or even 20-team leagues. And probably the death of the Big-12. To me, 20 is too big, but 16 is just right. The Pac-12 picking up 4 more teams, at least one likely to come from Texas (Tech?), would spark a free-for-all. A&M and OU would certainly move to the SEC while the newly entrenched media kings in Austin would go independent. There were already Kansas to the Big East  rumors last year and the conference already has TCU. Oklahoma State moves with T.Tech and KSU goes with the Jayhawks, Missouri re-applies to the Big Ten and Iowa State finds the mid-major home it always truly should have belonged to. Meanwhile, on the east coast, the ACC loses two teams to the SEC (but who? do you go for historic/geographic fits, or new markets?) and the rest scramble to get into whatever ACC/Big East basketball-heavy behemoth remains.

    I know it's a long way off, but I'll admit, expansion talk always gets me excited. Since money's the true driving force behind everything, I think the main thrust of expansion will be into new markets; new places and populations to sell your brand to and recruit from. Texas is the biggest target with it's central location and room for multiple conferences; the PAC and SEC would certainly eye a lone-star toehold, even if it means taking a Sooner State tag-along. Beyond that, the SEC has better pickings east of the Mississippi than the PAC does out west. Boise's a good program but a shit market. BYU's already independent and Utah State sucks, everything else is the definition of mid-major. There is Nevada, but Las Vegas isn't the biggest audience in the world. The SEC, on the other hand, could either stack the deck with schools already covered by the brand, but still conference-worthy (FSU, Clemson, Miami) or branch out themselves, maybe to the DC market (VA Tech)? The Big Ten would be in a tougher spot; they'd most likely have to puch towards NYC and Philly or further south and/or west.

    It's pretty much Texas and then what?
    Obviously, right now, the possibilities are endless. I finally got over all this once the season kicked-off, and hadn't thought about it again until last week. But I'll be damned if Dr. Futurebrain didn't really get me going again today. And I'll also say this about Scott, he's not old-school and he's not from inside the system; he won't simply be waiting around for Slive or Delaney to make a move and then react. Remember how close he was to stealing the entire Big-XII South last year? Larry's a hustler y'all - cash rules everything around him. I'm just glad the conference I'm attached to can always win - I'd love a 16-team conference of four 4-team divisions with a mini-playoff for the conference title. That's nine league games with a possibility of two more. The local FCS teams better get ready to do some traveling to fill those ooc spots.

    /rant: Why does everybody like Mike Leach?

    Mike Leach was being mentioned around the blog-o-sphere today, mainly due to XM's stirring the pot, and it set of the usual noise in comment sections and message boards. There's always a lot of support for Leach from the masses, and I always wonder why.

    The guy's a douche. There. I said it. He also didn't get a "raw deal" or unfair treatment from Texas Tech. Does everyone rally around him simply because his adversaries in the shed-gate fiasco were the James family, arguably the douchiest family in football? I'll agree that Craig James is an ass and his son, from what limited knowledge I have, is a spoiled brat who probably rode his daddy's name to a scholarship. But, does the fact the Jameses are terrible people mean we just give Leach a pass for being a raging ass-hat? He said his biggest regret leaving Tech was not cutting Adam James. I'd agree. If the kid was a brat, a flopper, and shithead - CUT HIM. Period. Don't play Jerry Springer alternative discipline camp and shut him up in a shed. That's ridiculous and unprofessional and, appropriately, cost Leach his job. He fucked up, he paid for it. He shouldn't have been allowed to keep his job just because the kid was also a jerk and his dad was an overbearing dick. I mean, teachers can't hit kids, period. The rule's not based on whether or not the kid's a douchebag.

    I'm bringing up all this old pirate news in light of the outrage coming out of Leach's camp today that he was not given credentials for Big-12 Media Days. He's upset and all the little Leach-o-philes out here are indignant that their favorite "bad boy" got the shaft. Why? He's not part of the Big-12 anymore - they don't have to give him media credentials just because you don't like helicopter parents and bratty kids. He doesn't coach Texas Tech anymore and he was going to show up on that day. That's douchey. If I was the Big-12, I wouldn't want him anywhere near my conferences -he's a goddamn embarrassment.

    And, once more for the record, I think Craig James is an embarrassment, too. That's my point: everyone involved in this mess two years ago was a giant, yeast-covered, saline-dripping douche - why do we have to cheer for anyone? I say let the pirate-king go down with his ship, with the anchor tied around Senator Texas exceptionalism himself and his no-account loser kid.


    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Coachspeak: Say 'think' a lot.

    TeamSpeedKills took the transcripts from SEC media days and, using Wordle, created some word clouds based on each coach's time at the podium. Across the board, the word 'think' was used more than any other. Check it out in three parts, here, here, and here.

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    SoS and Who "Deserves" a Shot.

    Is what's good for the Bronco good for the Hokie?

    The court of public opinion can be a hard place to make your case in the fickle, oft-hypocritical, and usually doublethink heavy world of college football. We can say one player is Heisman-worthy one week, dismiss him two games later, and give the trophy to someone in NYC who ended up with worse stats. We hold entire conferences in high esteem even though one of their members could very well be the worst BCS conference team. We do this while also dismissing and insulting entire other conferences even some of their members are genuine, top-10, BCS caliber teams. We even say everybody's got a shot, then we shut the door on them. And, once they convince enough people to give them access, we want to punch their ticket blindly, not really weighing everything that might have gone into their 12-0 record. It's with that in mind that I want to talk about recent trends and strength of schedule.

    Five or six years ago, a mid-major didn't have a chance to get any BCS bowl invite, much less THE BCS championship game. Well, a few years of Boise State success later and we now consider the Broncos true contenders if they make it through their week one qualifier (Oregon in '09, VA Tech last year, and UGA this season). But why? We have overcompensated for the mistreatment of mid majors by almost codling them now. Certainly they were unfairly kept out of big games in the past, but is the correct response to auto-punch their championship ticket in the preseason just so we have to scratch out their name after a late loss? I don't think so. But the millions have shifted and now it's just a taken for granted opinion and as long as the Broncos make it through week one, it's theirs to lose in a weak conference slate.

    The Poster-Boy for Mid-Major Respect
    Meanwhile, we see a BCS conference team play a weak out-of-conference slate and we start lighting the torches in July, actively trying to keep them from a high-ranking or positive momentum. Virginia Tech plays about as soft as an ooc sked as anyone can and message boarders have already taken up the flag to dismiss the Hokies as pretenders because of it. But how can we approve of this while holding the door open for the likes of TCU and Boise State? In the end, the Hokies will still play a harder schedule of games than anyone from the WAC or MWC, even the respectful teams like Boise who are trying to break the mold.

    Let's take a look.

    Neither one's a real murderer's row, but that's kinda my point.
    No matter what you think of the ACC, it's still tougher to play through unscathed than the Mtn. West. Think about it; yes, Duke is a pushover, but even the Blue Devils would be favored over Wyoming and New Mexico. It's also far more likely to have a season finally catch up to you in a tense moment at Bobby Dodd Stadium than in front of 12,000 rowdy CSU Rams fans. And, even if the Hokies cruise, they still have a championship game to play, and that's mighty big stumbling block.

    Now, before I get called out otherwise, I am NOT advocating that Virginia Tech is better than Boise - the Broncos took care of that last season. And I am NOT saying VA Tech's schedule is truly that difficult. I've just been thinking about what triggers our willingness to accept some teams compared to others. And, yes, I know, SoS comparisons have huge flaws of their own; technically, Boise's opponents had more wins in 2010 than Tech's did...but we have to consider what earned those W's out west and if those teams are truly superior to some of the L's these ACC teams pick up. I guess what I'm dealing with here is the true depth of the schedule wat should qualify as a sked that earns a team a spot in the BCS title game? I think we would all say an SEC schedule is proof enough of belonging, even a Big-12 or Pac-12 dancecard. But, we hesitate when we think of the ACC or Big East. I'm not necessarily saying that this is inherently wrong, I'm just saying that IF it's wrong, then why is it OK to give Boise a hall pass? Could they have beaten Oklahoma in '06 if they'd played a Big-XII schedule all year? If they beat Georgia in week one, could they really make it through seven more SEC games and a title game unscathed?

    How is this Georgia team really supposed to be measuring stick of greatness?
     Honestly, this post is not really as concerned with Boise and Va Tech particularly as much as it's about the thoughts behind how we perceive teams. It's just that heading into 2011, these teams are great examples. The Hokies play App State, ECU, ArkSt., and Marshall before an ACC slate and we're supposed to treat them like also-rans, but Boise plays a mediocre SEC team coming off a 6-7 year and a  loss to UCF and they're supposed to receive serious consideration for a title shot.

    I guess all I'm asking for is a little cognitive dissonance. But, then again, the world of college football is not known for that - and that little spice in the always adversarial dialogue just might be one the things that makes the sport so great.

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Dawgs Rocking Pro Combat in the Dome

    Georgia will once again try its hand at new/custom unis, donning a Nike pro-combat design for their game against Boise State in the Georgia Dome. Hopefully, this will work out better than the last Blackout, the black helmets against UF in '09, or the bulk of the Donnan black stripe era. One thing that bodes well is that this is NOT some lame motivational tool; it's part of the Nike contract and Boise will also be wearing a pro-combat uni for the game. Want to know what they loo like? Tough. McGarity, who apparently saw and approved the get-ups months ago, has the info on top-secret lock-down. According to McGarity: “The Georgia G is preserved in its rightly spot, the Georgia G is still as prominent as it has always been and is as it always will be. We’re not messing with the ‘G,’ OK? It’s school colors and all that stuff.”

    Rumor has it the Dawgs could be in a white or silver helmet with a wide red stripe down the middle. Here is a pic from a message board rumored to be the design - but this has NOT been confirmed. And, chances are, if it's off a mb, it's not the design.

    I hope the britches are still silver. Anyway, call me a radical, but I've always pictured an awesome Georgia uniform to look like this:

    And, maybe a black jersey once every 109 years. I know, I'm a uniform hypocrite. I love it when other schools break out any type of retro look, color switch, or new design, but I get very superstitious when it comes to Georgia. Also, that shit in Jacksonville a couple years ago was HIDEOUS. Hopefully Nike will have us something better than that this time around.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    It's Shit Like This

    TeamSpeedKills has a great post up today breaking down one play as an illustration of Georgia's defensive struggles against the option. Now, the Dawgs' failures against the option are nothing new - ask Georgia Tech, especially in 2009 - but this play against Florida exposes a deeper, more disturbing issue:

    "Now, I don't know enough about Georgia's defense from last year to say who is at fault here. However the defense was playing this as though Burton was a threat to pass the ball, but he had thrown just one pass all season at this point. There was no reason to be a man down in the box against that formation with that guy at quarterback. Either the coordinator on the sideline or a captain on the field failed to adjust the defense to counter the offensive formation. This was just a base 3-4 set with nothing special done for the option specifically. The same was true of the defense when Burton broke off a 51-yard option keeper for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

    Perhaps this fall, in the second year under Todd Grantham, the right adjustments will be made. Something must be done though with option heavy teams like Mississippi State (24 points, 4.1 YPC in 2010), Auburn (49 points, 463 total yards), and Georgia Tech (34 points, 512 total yards) on the schedule again. Maybe Grantham was just rusty in his option defense last year as I speculated, but he better find some WD-40 this summer."
    Here's the link to the breakdown. If you're a Georgia fan worried about the upcoming season, take a look; it's in-depth, but easy to follow, and gives you something to be on the lookout for in 2011.

    Just for fun, here's the full play:

    Untitled from David Wunderlich on Vimeo.

    FTS Heisman Hopefuls

     It's hard to truly compile a list of Heisman hopefuls in the preseason, mainly because these players' teams' records are just as important to their trophy chances as their talent does. So, in order to try and get a hand on things, you've got to pull form teams who'll have at the most 2-losses - unless they're just some disgusting and embarrassing on field human-highlight reel (Denard Robinson). But often, those are the guys who get hurt, miss time, and their team struggles in the meantime, lowering the player's stock even further (also Denard Robinson). Taking all that into account, here's a top-ten Heisman hopeful list for 2011. After the top-2, it becomes a pretty QB-heavy list and I cheated at the nine-spot, but wideouts struggle to crack the top tier of Heisman voting these days, so the sooner-state receivers share a nod.

    1. Trent Richardson-RB, Alabama
    2. LaMichael James-RB, Oregon
    3. Case Keenum-QB, Houston
    4. Landry Jones-QB, Oklahoma
    5. Darren Thomas-QB, Oregon
    6. Kellen Moore-QB, Boise State
    7. Andrew Luck-QB, Stanford
    8. Russel Wilson-QB, Wisconsin
    9. Ryan Broyles/Justin Blackmon-WR, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State
    10. Montee Ball-RB, Wisconsin
    Wild Card: Denard Robinson-QB, Michigan

    Georgia's RB Woes

    So, let's recap real quick: Washaun Ealey bailed, Caleb King couldn't get his academic shit together, and now Carlton Thomas is suspended at least one game. What does that mean for the UGA run game against Boise State? Well, now the depth chart looks like this:

    1. Isaiah Crowell
    2. Richard Samuel now moved back to offense from defense
    3. Ken Malcome (who?)
    4. An RC car controlled by Bobo from the box
    5. Any of the white walk-ons, all dreaming of being the next Brett Millican.
    6.Old video highlights of Herschel Walker. They can't actually carry the ball, but damn they look great.
    7. Me
    8. Do Jasper Sanks or Patrick Pass have any eligibility left?

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    SEC Media Guide Cover

    H/t Chuck Dunlap:

    Conference Blast: Independents and The Non-AQ's

    Well, this will be the last conference blast in the summer preview series here at FTS. Even I don't have the patience - or interest, honestly - to predict, rank, and write-up all the non-AQ conferences and independents in cfb. However, there are some truly talented football teams among all those unwashed masses and it would be a dereliction of my duty if I didn't provide you at least quick and dirty breakdown of who those teams are. I'll also do a quick drive-by of the independents, whose ranks are surprisingly growing.

    Keenum and Moore will be responsible for most of their respective teams' success.
    First, the Non-AQ's. I see the top small-time teams in two groups of three and then everyone else; it's the top of the MWC, the top of C-USA's Western Division, and the other 2 conference champs. They're not really ranked below by who I think is the best overall, so to that end, here's a top-5:

    1. Houston
    2. Boise State
    3. TCU
    4. Nevada
    5. SMU
    It's tough since the main non-AQ's with BCS-busting potential play other teams that are legitimate contenders for that role, but that top-5 is how I see it, talent and potential-wise.

    The MWC:

    Boise State - Once again, if the Broncos clear their big-boy match-up in the season opener, they'll be in the national title discussion. After that, they'll have to finish out the year undefeated and avoid slip-ups like last year against Nevada. Can they do that? Absolutely. Will they? Well that's the rub. There's really not much to dislike about this team. Kellen Moore is back with six other starters, including the top rusher and almost a hundred starts along the O-line, and the defense returns seven to a top-5 unit from last season. All the pieces are in place for them to actually make a BCS run, but there will be one big hurdle in their way: the season opener in ATL against Georgia. I've already said I think Boise loses that game, but if they don't, the Broncos will be in the mix for a championship spot.

    TCU - While this will be a down year for the Frogs, they'll still be a better team than most of the creampuffs in the non-AQ world. And honestly, what does a "down" year mean in Ft. Worth? To me, it means 11-1 record, with the only loss coming in the visit to the blue turf of Boise in November. They lose Andy Dalton, but Patterson runs such a tight ship, that I doubt the offense will slouch and I don't see the defense falling too far from their top-3 national perch. The Frogs will need to be careful when newly independent BYU comes calling, though.

    Air Force - The Falcons are included here as a MWC spoiler more than a BCS-buster. Their triple option attack can be tough to handle and could give Boise State fits.


    Houston - I think Houston is poised to be the best non-AQ team in the nation and they're a home win over UCLA to start the season away from controlling their BCS destiny. But, they are not a talent deep team or a solid program; no, Houston is all one player: Case Keenum. He'll break all the major QB records this season and should be able to lead the Cougars through a surprisingly competitive division. Barring another injury to the golden arm, I see no reason why UH can't be 12-0 at season's end, despite the treacherous b2b SMU-Tulsa end to the season.

    SMU -This could be June Jones' year, especially if Houston slips. The Mustangs get back 10 offensive starters, including starting QB Kyle Pardon, and have the firepower to run the table. I do not think they'll take down Texas A&M in the season opener, but beyond that, SMU should cruise until road trips to Tulsa and Houston.

    Tulsa- Todd Graham turned Tulsa into a very successful program before leaving for Pitt. New HC Bill Blankenship served as an assistant under Graham and should be more than capable of maintaining Tulsa's success. To help out the new head man, the Golden Hurricane return 18 starters - ten on offense - and draw SMU and Houston at home. Working against Blankenship - and all of Hurricane nation - is the fact Tulsa plays both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. I don't see them winning either of those games, but even with four losses, this team should be considered among the non-AQ elite.

    Kings of Their Little Hills:

    Troy - I wonder if they ever get tired of winning the Sun Belt. There's really no team in the league that I see challenging the Trojans' reign, and even though the only return five offensive starters, Blakeny should have them ready to win. If the offense does slip, the defense should be there to help out, as 8 starters back should vastly improve this unit's performance. While Troy does draw Clemson and Arkansas to start 2011, they should win the next ten and capture another conference title.

    Nevada - Who else is there left in the WAC? Remember when they beat Boise last season? Yeah, that was awesome.

    The Independents - Like I promised, here's a quick run-down of the unaffiliated teams from the FBS.

    Notre Dame - The Irish are tough to get a handle on this season. Brian Kelly's a great coach and there are 17 returning starters, but the ND notoriously underachieves and I don't know if that's going to end anytime soon. Michigan State, Air Force, South Florida, USC, BC, and Stanford are all loseable games, but Kelly's boys are in year 2 of his systems, so I'll give them a little more credit - they'll only lose three of those games. At 9-3, they probably won't be ranked in the top-12, so we won't have to suffer through another BCS-blowout...but we'll certainly be hearing about the Irish all year long.

    BYU has a lot to prove with newly found independence.
     BYU - Ah, the Notre Dame of the West. The newly independent Cougars could have a nice year if things get started right, but b2b road trips to Ole Miss and Texas won't be fun. They also draw trips to TCU and Oregon State as well as the Holy War tilt with Utah. BYU has already agreed to play in the Armed Forces Bowl, which, with an 8-4 record, will be right where they belong.

    And, lastly, Navy will beat Army in December, but both teams will struggle to get bowl games.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    You know what this means...

    This week the conference blasts will wrap up with the non-AQ's and independents as well as the FTS preseason top-25.

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Conference Blast: The SEC East

    I hope all of this wrong. If last season was an exercise in optimism, then this is my sortie into pure pessimism.

    SC, your season lies in this man's sobriety. Good luck!
    1. South Carolina - The Gamecocks return seven starters on offense, including Garcia, Lattimore, and Jeffrey and are an easy pick to win the division. They get six back on defense, including the top-four tacklers, and draw a favorable schedule. I do think SC loses early at Georgia, a trendy upset pick for East champ, but rebounds through the first half of the season. Things heat up after the bye, with road trips to Tenn. and Arkansas and the league closer with Florida. And, with Garcia's trustworthiness questionable at best, that could mean a loss or two. But, even if they drop another SEC game down the pipe, the 'Cocks will easily land in ATL in December.

    2. Florida - Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee will all be chasing second place in the East, and I'm afraid none of them will have a spectacular year. Muschamp and Weis will have their hands full getting their systems in place, but they certainly have the talent to get it done quickly. Brantley will finally be playing in an offense he can succeed in and will still have Demos and Rainey to back him up. They will lose b2b games at Bama and against LSU, but draw a bye before their favorite punching bag, Georgia, and even with a late loss to SoCar, a 5-3 conference mark will clearly seperate the Gators from the middle of the East. 

    t3. Tennessee - Tennessee and Georgia will both end up with .500 conference records, but I'm giving UT the head-to-head edge over the Dawgs. Coaching-wise, the Vols are more stable than Florida, but don't have the athletic depth - but they do have some impact players on offense who will only be better in 2012: Tyler Bray, Tauren Poole, and Justin Hunter. Defense will be the Vols weakness, costing them big at Florida and in b2b2b games against Bama, LSU, and SoCar. I do think the Vols can take a depleted Georgia down, but may not be so lucky against a healthy Dawg team. Speaking of...

    t3. Georgia - If Georgia could somehow keep all their starters healthy, they could play in ATL this December. But the harsh fact of the matter is depth is not the Bulldogs' friend in 2011. The O-line should be solid, but one injury and UGA will be starting a step ladder. And that sucks because the line's going to need to stay healthy for Murray who will have to carry most of the load as the running game is now squarely in the hands of a freshman. Defensively, I'd like to think the Dawgs will be improved, but I thought it before and been burned. There should be some benefit from new blood and JuCo talent, but I've reached a point where I don't put much faith in this staff. I see Georgia starting  a very impressive 2-0 - Boise, SoCar - but dropping games down the line to depth issues and health concerns.

    gratuitous Georgia pic
    5. Kentucky - This defense should be good...but that's about it. The 'Cats have lost some key offensive talent; talent that helped them become more competitive in the last few years. This is going to cost them in 2011. They play b2b road games at LSU and SoCar and close the season with UGA and Tenn. Throw in a loss to a solid Mississippi State team and UK will have at least 5 SEC losses.

    6. Vanderbilt - Good news: Warren Norman. Bad News: Uh, it's Vandy.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Dynasty 2012: Minnesota State Screaming Eagles

    With the newest edition of NCAA '12 comes a new FTS dynasty and things'll be little different this season. Instead of the ladder-climbing, legend-making career of Ace Journeyman, this season will be about the program building skills of one Hayden Fox. Does he have what it takes to turn a struggling Minnesota State program into a serious contender and maybe one day hoist the crystal football over his head? I guess we'll find out.

    I went back to the first few seasons of Coach to help set up the dynasty and make sure I got some of the details right and made the right selections in Teambuilder. Obviously, I've had to use a little leeway with the continuity and canon, as in the first season of the show Fox is several seasons in and the program's still struggling but I'll have to start with career year one and will only have three seasons to turn things around. The Screaming Eagles will play in the BigTen, which is very different now than it was in 1989 - two teams, a divisional split, and a championship game different to be exact - and, using opponents mentioned in the show, the team plays a lot of Big12 non-conference opponents. However, the program is supposed to be really bad at first, like Eastern Michigan bad. In fact, I used EMU as the roster-prototype for MSU. It was one thing to take EMU against a MAC schedule, it'll be whole different can of worms taking a program that untalented against the big boys week-in and week-out.

    Coach Fox

    The Specifics:
    School: Minnesota State
    Mascot: Screaming Eagles
    Coach: Hayden Fox
    Location: Rochester, MN
    Stadium: Lindheim Stadium

    The Uniforms:

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Conference Blast: The SEC West blitz...grr
     1. Alabama - Last season, the Tide only returned two defensive starters. That depleted unit led the SEC and finished second in the nation overall. This season, Bama returns an ungodly ten starters from the 2010 unit. With that D, I'm taking the Tide all the way. They also get seven back on offense, but Richardson may as well count as a starter (he's high on my Heisman list) and whoever takes over the QB slot will most certainly be a Saban-worthy game manager. I just don't see a weakness on this team and I'm picking them for the division, conference, and BCS titles.

    2. LSU - Like the Tide, the Tigers will be packing a top-notch defense. Unlike Bama, LSU lacks the stability and support to turn that into a title run. Jordan Jefferson is sketchy at best and even if Miles pull out enough grass-eating tricks to win every game but Bama, it won't be enough.

    3. Mississippi State - Dan Mullen should know how to run a successful program given his tutelage under Urban Meyer and 2010 is an indicator that things are headed in the right direction. Defensively, things should e solid in Starkville as they return seven to a top-20 defense. The offense has been suspect, but could start turning around now; Relf should be more comfortable under Center and has the top-rusher and reciever back from last year. Competition is tough in the SEC, so I'm not looking for State to compete for a spot in ATL; look for them to lead the middle of the pack in the division, though.

    4. Arkansas - I think 2010 was the best season Petrino will have at Arkansas.* A 6-2 record in the SEC is always impressive, but not easily repeatable, especially when you live in a division with programs like 'Bama, LSU, and Auburn. There's enough talent back on offense to lead the league, even without Mallet, but strictly offensive teams don't win the SEC. I'd be surprised if they top a 4-4 record in 2011.

    5. Auburn - I think Malzahn will be the key to the Tigers having a decent year in 2011. There's only 3 starters back on offense, so hopefully he's good enough to have them in a groove by mid-season. Worse news, the Tigers only get three back on defense, too, leaving Roof a lot of work to do. AU could realistically start out 0-5 in SEC play and the Tigers will need to at least split Georgia/Alabama to make it to a bowl.

    6. Ole Miss - Maybe it's the lingering effects of a 4-8 season or the loss to a FCS team, but I don't have much faith in Ole Miss. It might not be fair since Nutt has proven himself as a decent coach with the right talent and the Rebels return nine starters, but right now, this is where I see them. They do draw Kentucky and Vandy from the East which should pad their conference league, but I think they'll lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Auburn and finish in the cellar.

     * Except maybe next time they'll be able to win the Sugar Bowl.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Why is the Caleb King story "news"?

    We already knew in May he was academically ineligible and it would take a scholarly miracle to fix it. Anyone who's followed this kid's career should have known better than to expect any sort of over achievement.

    My question: When does he enroll in Terry Bowden's adopt-a-douchebag program at N. Alabama?

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Conference Blast: The PAC-12 North

    1. Oregon - As of right now, we don't know how the alleged Will Lyles recruiting impropriety will shake out, so keep that in mind, here. The Ducks came up just three points short in the BCS Title game last season and that will be fresh on the entire program's mind as they head into 2011. If they make it past week one opponent LSU, I don't see anyone bringing the Ducks down. Last year's offensive production was sick and things look to be just as good this season, as Oregon returns Thomas and James, as well as the burner Barner. Also, it's easy to forget that the Ducks led the league in defense last season (11th in the nation!) and will maintain heavy use of their two deep, which is what led to such success. They lost some big-time tacklers, but even with a step back on D, this team will win their division, their conference, and threaten for the BCS Title. 

    2. Stanford - The Cardinal is going to miss Harbaugh. Not to knock new HC Shaw, but Harbaugh provided a lot of intensity and, when focused properly, that wins ballgames. Andrew Luck did decide to come back, but he alone won't be enough to run the table. I think Stanford loses at least two league games (Org, USC) which will nudge them right out of conference contention.

    3. Washington - I feel like Sark is finally getting things right in Seattle. Entering his third season, he gets 15 starters back and the systems are totally in place. That 0-12 record in '08 will be a distant memory soon enough, as, despite the tough road slate, the Huskies should be improved over last season. I think they'll come up short at Stanford and at home against Oregon, but they could knock off USC again. Throw in another loss somewhere and U-Dub will finish at 6-3, which will be very respectable in this division.

    4. Oregon State - Initially, I thought the Beavers could be a surprise team in 2011. But then I remembered last year and how disappointing they were and I wonder fi they'll ever get back to 10 wins or be able to threaten for a conference title. On the bright side, State returns 8 starters on offense, including QB Katz and the Quizz, but they'll be offenses out there just as good and a season of shootouts is not what a defense with just 4 starters back needs. I see them losing at least 4 conference games and would not be surprised if it was five. 

    5. Cal - I just can't get a feel for Tedford's teams...and apparently neither can he. I do know that they cannot repeat last year's level of disappointment again (actually they very easily could). They should be carrying 2 P12 wins into b2b losses to USC and Oregon. After that, everything besides Stanford is realistically winnable, but the Bears love to choke and closing the season with two away games at quality opponents is tough.

    6. Washington State - Thanks for trying, Coach Wulff. NEXT!

    All we've got right now

    If you've been watching College Football Live lately, you've probably noticed that they have a top-25 they're already using. It's not an official preseason poll - it's not even ESPN's official preseason poll - but it's all we have right now. It was compiled by "a 38-person panel consisting of our analysts, studio hosts, play-by-play announcers, bloggers, researchers and production team members." Here's the link.

    And, to save you the trouble, here are the rankings:

    ESPN College Football Live Top-25
    1. Oklahoma
    2. Alabama
    3. Oregon
    4. LSU
    5. Boise State
    6. Florida State
    7. Stanford
    8. South Carolina
    9. Oklahoma State
    10. Ohio State
    11. Texas A&M
    12.  Arkansas
    13. Nebraska
    14. Wisconsin
    15. TCU
    16. Michigan State
    17. Notre Dame
    18. Florida
    19. Virginia Tech
    20. Texas
    21. Mississippi State
    22. Missouri
    23. Auburn
    24. West Virginia
    25. Arizona State

    The Sooners at number one is an obvious pick, and I'll doubt we'll see any preseason poll that doesn't favor either Oklahoma or Alabama.

    Oregon and LSU come in at no. 3 and 4 respectively - how big is that week one matchup?

    Speaking of week one match-ups, Boise State is no. 5 and Georgia is unranked. Yet the Broncos are only 1' favorites now. Somehow it seems the rankings don't match the narrative we're trying to create with some of these non-AQ teams.

    Defending BCS champ Auburn comes in at no. 23. I've seen them picked everywhere from no. 9 to having a losing season, so maybe around 20 is a safe pick.

    I bet if they could re-visit this poll, we'd see Ohio State drop and Wisconsin surge. The Badgers' no. 14 ranking seems low even without new transfer Russell Wilson.

    I think Stanford, Oklahoma State, and  (maybe) South Carolina are too high. I think the Cardinal will lose at least two games, the Cowboys at least three, and if the Game cocks make it back to ATL, it'll be with a similar season as 2010 (4 losses). That is not good enough to hold those top-10 rankings.

    I think Virginia Tech is too low. I've been considering the Hokies a top-10 team at least and here they come in at no. 19.

    Nos. 16-18 feel like "what do with these teams?" picks. And, honestly, I couldn't really tell you any better.

    Remember, the Official FTS Preseason Top-25 will be up next week!