Monday, August 30, 2010
Last but not least it's the proverbial king of the mountain of college football conferences, the SEC. The list is impressive. The last four BCS Champions, 49 out of 255 players selected in the NFL Draft, the toughest schedules, and arguably the best defenses, most passionate fans, and giant stadiums. Let's take a look to see who will play for the SEC Title this season.
Champion - Florida
We all know the story by now, Tim Tebow has left and John Brantley must follow one of the greatest college football players of all time. Brantley is not as mobile as Tebow, but he does have a better arm so expect more running from the likes of Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moodey and more deep ball. Who will catch those passes has yet to be determined. Other than Deonte Thompson no one in the receiving corps has much experience. The defense is loaded and fast as always, but who will lead them? Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Spikes are gone as is defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Yes many familiar faces are gone from the Gators, but it's not like the cupboard is bare. What I want to see is if one of the running backs can pick up a third and short on the ground since Tebow isn't there to run left anymore. The Gators have to travel to Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida State this season, but they have enough talent, albeit unproven, to win the East.
Runner-Up - Georgia
Right now the only school in the East who I believe has enough talent to try and hang with the Gators in the East is the Georgia Bulldogs. They are breaking in a new QB, but the other ten starters are returning which gives whomever starts under center plenty of weapons, especially WR A.J. Green who is the biggest home run threat in the conference. Defense on the other hand is a toss up. Only five starters return from a unit that performed poorly last season. Switching to a 3-4 defense might just fix some of the problems. This may be a make or break year for head coach Mark Richt who has seen the Bulldogs record slide the past two seasons.
For once I would like Tennessee to have a quiet offseason. The Vols are under their third head coach in as many years. Derek Dooley, son of legendary Georgia Coach Vince Dooley was brought in and has set in motion his plan to get the Volunteers back to respectability. It is not going to happen overnight though. Tennessee is very thin in spots, mostly on the two lines. The offensive line will have five new starters and the defensive line has been decimated by injuries this summer. Also, the Big Orange will be breaking in two new quarterbacks. JUCO transfer Matt Sims (Son of Phil Sims) looks to get the nod to start the season, but look for true freshman Tyler Bray to get plenty of snaps. The other skill positions have the potential to be quite potent. Receivers Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore are experienced and will get a boost from freshmen Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter. Tight End Luke Stocker can be all-conference and running backs Tauren Poole and David Oku will be a nice 1-2 punch. On defense the Vols have great depth at linebacker and defensive backs Art Evans and Janzen Jackson are both heavy hitters. Tennessee fans will have to be patient and I think they will. This season the Vols can be anywhere from 8-4 to 4-8 finishing 6-6 and a small bowl will be deemed a success.
Steve Spurrier never seems to be happy with his quarterback. Returning starter Stephen Garcia has drawn the ire of the ol' ball coach. Garcia has to learn to get rid of the ball quicker to cut down on his sack total. He has plenty of talent but if he struggles, Spurrier will be there with the quick hook. Garcia does have some good targets. Alshon Jeffery is an emerging star and tight end Weslye Saunders is a big target once he gets back from suspension The Gamecocks finally have some talent in the backfield. True freshman Marcus Lattimore is poised for big things. The defense will be solid again behind SEC Defensive player of the year candidate in cornerback Stephen Gilmore. The biggest question will be if the Gamecocks can finally get over the proverbial hump and win nine to ten games this season.
Going to four straight bowl games has been nothing short of a miracle for the Wildcats. Joker Phillips comes in to take over at head coach for the retiring Rich Brooks. The Wildcats are talented on offense. RB Derrick Locke and WR Randall Cobb are two of the most dangerous playmakers in the conference. The secondary is quite battle tested and is the strength of the defense, while the front seven just cannot seem to stop the run. If the defense can hold people once and awhile a fifth straight bowl game is not out of the question.
New head coach Robbie Caldwell was the life of the party at SEC Media Days, but now it is time at start playing football and the Commodores have plenty to work on. There are some quality players, namely RB/KR Warren Norman and the defense should be pretty sturdy but there are still gaping holes in talent compared to the rest of the SEC. Vanderbilt will have to keep games close and make plays at the end when it counts, just like they did when they went bowling in 2008.
Champion - Alabama
The defending National Champions are ready to defend their title. The Crimson Tide are loaded on offense. Heisman Trophy winner RB Mark Ingram returns but may have less of an impact as his backup Trent Richardson is a beast as well. With the two of them sharing duties they have the best backfield in the country. QB Greg McElroy did not have to do much last year but was great when he needed to be, the last minute drive to beat Auburn and in the SEC title game against Florida. He has great targets to throw to as WR Julio Jones looks to rebound from a down sophomore season and Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks can both go out and get the ball. Defense could be the Achilles heel of the Crimson Tide. Nine starters from last season's team either graduated or are in the NFL. DE Marcell Davis and LB Dont'a Hightower lead this new group. We might not be familiar with the names on defense but they definitely have the talent, whether they can grow enough this season will be the factor. Also the schedule is not friendly this season. Six of Alabama's conference opponents have a bye the week before they play the Tide. One of those teams will trip them up.
Runner-Up - Auburn
No one is out at the airstrip yelling at Gene Chizik anymore. Auburn went 8-5 last season and were seconds away from knocking off Alabama. The Tigers are a veteran team especially on the offensive line and had the nation's number four recruiting class. JUCO transfer Cameron Newton has the job at quarterback. At 6-6, 247 pounds Newton has great arm strength and running ability which is perfect for Auburn's high tempo offense. The defense is strong but lacks an elite pass rusher and there is no real ball-hawk in the secondary. The Tigers should be fun to watch but, Auburn has to travel to Alabama this year which means they fall short again to the Crimson Tide.
Combine one of the most acknowledged offensive coaching minds in Bobby Petrino and one of the best NFL prospects at quarterback in Ryan Mallett and you have an offense that is ready to put on a show at Arkansas. Add to that a very deep receiving corps in Greg Childs, Joe Adams, and Jarius Wright and things could be perfect through the air. However, Arkansas has to get something out of their running game and Mallett needs to throw more than just the deep ball. Also, despite the great offense, defense and kicking still wins games in the SEC and the Razorbacks have struggled there. Games 3 and 4 at Georgia and hosting Alabama will go a long way in determining how far the Hogs will go.
Following the 2007 BCS National Championship, the LSU Tigers had two disappointing seasons of 8-5 and 9-4. A renewed emphasis on the running game and better overall play from QB Jordan Jefferson will help the Tigers rebound on offense after finishing the season ranked 112th in total offense last year. The Tigers challenged Florida and Alabama last year until the lack of firepower caused them to fall short. Defensive attrition is a concern but CB Patrick Peterson is a big time player. Stamina and late game dominance will be critical to the Tigers success and Lord help Les Miles if he has a clock problem again.
The Bulldogs ended 2009 with a momentum building blowout over rival Ole Miss and saw its future at QB in Chris Relf. Coach Dan Mullen has worked to fill in some of the gaps but is is going to be tough to replace All-Time rushing leader Anthony Dixon at running back and there is little experience at receiver. If they can shore up those spots and the defense can stay salty a bowl game should be in sight.
Ole Miss is coming off 18 wins in the past two seasons but will need to almost totally revamp its offense to keep winning. Ole Miss picked up former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli after he was dismissed from the school following his third arrest. If Masoli can stay out of trouble things might improve but they still have to find someone to replace Mr. Everything Dexter McCluster and WR Shay Hodge. The Rebels do return a stout defense which should keep them in games but this looks like a down year in Oxford. However, Coach Houston Nutt seems to do much better when expectations are low.
SEC Champion - Alabama
The Tide will not get through the season unscathed which will keep an SEC team out of the BCS Championship Game, but they still have the best team in the conference.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
After a few years of being the butt of everybody's joke in SEC country, the Big Ten is back. Last year they won both their BCS Bowl games and Penn State and Wisconsin beat top 15 teams in their bowls. This season you have I believe three teams who have a legitimate shot a making a run to the BCS Championship. If they can avoid an SEC team in the Championship game they might just win it.
Champion - Wisconsin
The Badgers do it old school with a solid running game and they do it so well. The Badgers return ten starters on offense including RB John Clay who should be on everyones Heisman short list. QB Scott Tolzien is not flashy but he gets the job done. He has good receivers in Nick Toon and tight end Lance Kendricks. The offensive line is one of the best in the country, seven have starting experience and their average weight is 319 pounds. Wisconsin has an very easy four games in September before Big Ten play begins which ill give a young defense a chance to gel. The big games are back to back weeks in October when Ohio State comes to Madison on the 16th and then they have to play at Iowa on the 23rd. Wisconsin has traditionally choked when expectations are high. It won't happen this season as the Badgers go back to the Rose Bowl and maybe farther.
Runner-Up - Ohio State
The Buckeyes and Coach Jim Tressel finally got a little respect in big games back after winning the Rose Bowl over Oregon last season. Terrelle Pryor had a great game and made himself a Heisman front runner this season. This season Pryor does not have to lead the team in rushing and can focus more on his passing attack since OSU can go about five deep at tailback and not lose anything. Seven starters return on a defense that was fifth in the nation last season. It is anchored by All-America candidate Cameron Heyward. Much of the Buckeyes national championship hopes rest in Pryor. While brilliant in the Rose Bowl he has also show to be very inconsistent in the passing game. The schedule is not kind either as OSU has to travel to both Wisconsin and Iowa. I think they get tripped up in one or both those games. If not the Buckeyes could be back in the BCS Title game.
Runner-Up - Iowa
I have two runners up because I think the Hawkeyes are just as good as the previous two. As it was last season the defense will lead the way. Eight starters are back from last season's 10th ranked defense including all four on the defensive line, anchored at end by All-America candidate Adrian Clayborn. QB Ricky Stanzi is in his third season under center and while he may throw a few too many picks for my liking, he is 18-4 as a starter. The Hawkeyes weakness is usually their strength, along the offensive line. They have to replace three starters and it is a necessity if Iowa wants a Big Ten Title. Of course if you need to get offensive linemen, head coach Kirk Ferentz is the one who can do it. The schedule is a huge plus for Iowa. The toughest road test is week three at Arizona. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State all visit Iowa City
Joe Paterno has proven he still has it the past few years. The cupboard is not bear in Happy Valley, but Penn State is playing catch up to the top three this season. Even Royster is a solid running back and can become the school's all-time rushing leader. A new quarterback must be found to take pressure off of Royster. It will also be tough for the Nittany Lions to win at Alabama, Iowa, and Ohio State this season, but they should win more than six games which would give Joe Pa 400.
The Spartans got off to a tough start last season going 1-3 with losses against Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin, after winning their next three it looked like things were alright until off the field issues help the team skid to a 6-7 record. The Spartans have some talent returning, especially in QB Kirk Cousins and LB Greg Jones, but it will still be tough to see more than eight wins this season.
At least the Tennessee coaching situation isn't as bad as the one in Ann Arbor. Back to back losing seasons and the first NCAA investigation in program history has made the coaching tenure of Rich Rodriguez very shaky. It is definitely a make-or-break year. The potential is there with more experience at QB whether it be Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson. There is some good depth all over the roster but questions abound on defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary. The Wolverines better make a bowl and/or beat Ohio State for Rich Rod to have a future in Ann Arbor.
The Wildcats lost three players to the NFL and have not won a bowl game since 1949. They came within three points of ending that streak last season against Auburn but couldn't do it in the end. This season the Wildcats should make a middling bowl game and have a chance to finally win one. OSU and Michigan are not on the schedule and their non-conference slate is a breeze. The Wildcats should score enough points with their spread and with that schedule get to eight wins.
Miami transfer QB Robert Marve seems to be the real deal to lead the Purdue passing attack. He has a great target in WR Keith Smith, but there is zero experience at running back after 2009 starter Ralph Bolden tore his ACL in the spring. As it seems to be the case every season at Purdue the defense, which finished seventh in the conference last season will have to improve if the Boilermakers are to get past mediocrity.
In 2007 Ron Zook had the Fighting Illini in the Rose Bowl. That seems ages ago for the Zooker as the past two seasons have been dismal. Zook always seems to recruit good talent he just doesn't get the best results out of them. QB Nathan Scheelhaase is seems to be one of those players. Illinois has to probably finish .500 or better for Zook to keep his job.
You know things are weird when it seems to be more fun to watch football at Indiana than the basketball team. That may change this season as the Hoosiers on the hardwood may be back, but the football should at least be exciting too. The offense can score points, but the defense cannot stop anyone so scores might resemble ones you would see on the basketball court.
The offense returns almost intact which might not be a good thing since they were 109th in total defense last season. Add a young defense and a tough schedule and the onus is on QB Adam Weber and that offense to pick things up.
Last but not least: The SEC!
Saturday, August 28, 2010
The Big XII has really lost a lot this offseason. Texas loses the BCS Championship game to Alabama, five of the first six players taken in the NFL Draft were from the Big XII, and they lost two schools in Nebraska and Colorado to other conferences (they will leave in 2011 and 2012). However, all schools are in tact for this season and are ready to go.
Champion - Nebraska
They were one second away from shaking up the BCS against Texas in the Big XII title game and are ready for some payback this season. Ndamukong Suh did leave a big hole on the defensive line, but there are some great players ready to fill it. Bo Pelini has returned the black shirts to Lincoln. Jared Crick is an All-America candidate on the line as does cornerback Prince Amukamara. This defense could be better overall compared to last season. Meanwhile the offense will have to improve, the Huskers were 99th in total offense last season. Eight starters return to the offense so hopefully they are more seasoned and improved.
Runner-Up - Missouri
The only school who can really challenge Nebraska in the North. The Tigers return 17 starters from an 8-5 team including quarterback Blaine Gabbert who can pitch the ball all over the field. The offense will have to score points because the defense will need time to gel. DE Aldon Smith has a chance to be a superstar but the pass defense has been torched the past two years. If Gabbert can find some solid receivers the Tigers can keep the scoreboard running.
The offense returns nine starters from a 7-6 debut season under coach Paul Rhoads. Three year starters, QB Austen Arnaud and RB Alexander Robinson will lead the attack. The defense however must replace seven starters, which is never good, especially when you can't reload like the bigger schools. Another bowl game would be a nice result.
Running Back Daniel Thomas could be the best back in the conference. Thomas led the Big XII in rushing and averaged more than five yards a carry. The rest of the offense leaves much to be desired. The defense is very thin so they have to stay healthy or else the season could be a disaster. If things fall right, a bowl game is a possibility.
Legendary Nebraska Quarterback is back in the Midwest. He was hired to help rebuild a Kansas team that started 5-0 and then lost its last seven which got Coach Mark Mangino the boot amidst allegations of player abuse. Gill brings a good calming influence, and anyone who can win at Buffalo is a smart choice. It is going to be an uphill battle to start. Kansas is shy on talent and there isn't a proven playmaker on either side of the ball.
Head Coach Dan Hawkins was brought in from Boise State and there was high hopes in Boulder. Four years later and Hawkins is 16-33 and not making friends. The Buffaloes were 104th in total offense last season but with nine returning starters hopefully things will improve. There are no excuses left for Hawkins. If the Buffs don't at least make a bowl, count on a change.
Champion - Oklahoma
Boomer Sooner is back. After lofty expectations last season, the Sooners were bit by the injury bug and finished the season 8-5. Sam Bradford missed much of the year and plenty of young guys had to step in and play. That experience will pay off this season. QB Landry Jones surged late last season throwing for 418 yards in the Sun Bowl. RB DeMarco Murray is set to have a great year as in WR Ryan Broyles. DE Jeremy Beal and LB Travis Lewis are All-America candidates on defense. If the offensive line can gel, look for the Sooners offense to soar. They just need to beat Texas.
Runner-Up - Texas
The Longhorns are not going to drop off anytime soon. Mack Brown can just pick the top talent out of Texas every year and they are reloaded. So people may not know the faces on the field yet, but you will. QB Garrett Gilbert had to come in early in the BCS Championship game for the injured Colt McCoy, and showed signs of brilliance (around all the turnovers). Texas is going to have to find a running game to take some of the pressure off Gilbert. The defense will be up to its usual dominance, led this season by DE Sam Acho who led the team with ten sacks last season. Texas will be in the conversation all season long.
Aggie QB Jerrod Johnson is fun to watch. He can throw a beautiful deep ball and he has the playmakers around him to keep the A&M offense as one of the best in the country. The defense on the other hand was 105th in the country last year but looks to have improved coming out of the spring. LB Von Miller led the nation last season with 17 sacks but he can't do it all by himself. If the Aggies stay healthy, it could be a fun season in College Station.
The pirate is gone from Lubbock but former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is now at the helm of the Red Raiders. Tuberville will not abandon the air raid offense, but there will be some more runs in the playbook, which is just fine with RB Baron Batch. New defense coordinator James Willis coached linebackers at Alabama and is a disciple of Nick Saban and Will Mushamp so the defensive pressure will be turned up.
When you lose Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant, and Russell Okung from the offense you may have a little bit of drop off. However, since Bryant missed much of last year due to suspension the other receivers were able to grow. RB Kendall Hunter is still around and can bust the big play. The Cowboys only have three starters back on defense so coordinator Bill Young will have to work some magic.
It all really rides on the success of Baylor QB Robert Griffin. For the Bears to get to their first bowl game in 15 years Griffin is going to have to prove his torn ACL is healed and can take the punishment this season. Griffin was hurt in the third game last season after a brilliant freshman year in which he passed for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns, and rushed for 843 yards and 13 scores. The time is going to have to be now for the Bears to go bowling.
Big XII Champion - Oklahoma
Despite the fact that the Sooners could not contend for championship by mid-season last year, they showed heart and did not quit. After the 8-5 season last year the Sooners are motivated and ready to prove that last season was just a bump in the road.
Talk about your wide open conferences. One can make an argument for eight of the teams winning the conference title. While it does not look like any of these teams have a good shot at the national championship, it should be fun to watch a good ol' wild west shootout for the conference crown.
Champion - Stanford
Yes, Toby Gerhart is gone, along with his 1,800 yards and 28 touchdowns, but Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has a sophomore at quarterback named Andrew Luck who is the best on the Farm since John Elway. Luck will have some help with a four returning starters on a veteran offensive line and his top two receivers. Like most of the teams in the Pac-10 the defense is the problem. If the Cardinal can play solid defense and the running game is effective, Luck will have a monster year and lead Stanford to the Rose Bowl.
Runner-Up - USC
Some guy named Lane Kiffin takes over as head coach of USC this season. The Trojans were slapped with a bowl ban for the next two years so they can't play in the Rose Bowl, but hey can take home another conference crown. QB Matt Barkley leads the attack and has the usual top talent at the skill positions. True freshman running back Dillon Baxter is the most explosive back since Reggie Bush (or at USC "he who will not be named"). USC had a down year on defense last season, but Monte Kiffin will get this defense back on track. The Trojans will be in the race for the conference crown, but all the distractions will cost them a game of two this season.
The Ducks had just as crazy an offseason as the Vols had, which makes sense that they play each other in week 2. Losing Jeremiah Masoli keeps Oregon down but they still have plenty of veteran talent with 18 returning starters. RB LaMichael James is a burner and the offensive line is deep and experienced. The Ducks have a defense that is probably the most underrated in the country. Yes, the read-option gieves everyone fits, but when you have a defense in the Pac-10 that stops people, that is bad news. The game September 11 on Rocky Top will determine if the Ducks are a contender.
Head Coach Mike Riley just keeps the Beavers rolling every year. Oregon State always seems to start slow and they might do so again this year playing TCU and Boise State in September. However, they use that seasoning to get hot by the end of the season. The Beavers are breaking in a new QB but he has it easy being able to hand off to quick as a hiccup Jacquizz Rogers and throw to his brother James Rogers. Look for the Beavers to be in title contention going into the civil war with Oregon at the end of the season.
Talk about a quick turnaround. Two years ago the Huskies went 0-12 and then last year under new coach Steve Sarkisian went 5-7. This season they looking to get back to a bowl for the first time since 2002 and they have the QB to do it. Jake Locker is an awesome talent who turned down a chance to be the top pick in the draft this year to come back to school. Locker finally has talent around him this season. RB Chris Polk is the first freshman in school history to run for over 1,000 yards and WR Jermaine Kearse is a deep threat. Huskies will make a bowl this year and are a dark horse for the conference crown.
Mike Stoops has successfully rebuilt Arizona playing everyone tough and getting to the Holiday Bowl last season. It appears Stoops now has a solid base to be competitive every year and even contend. The Wildcats can contend this season with a great quarterback in Nick Foles. This offense is one of the most versatile in the country. They can spread it out and throw with Foles and then run the jumbo package with a solid RB in Nic Grigsby. The Wildcats are thin on defense but have two of the best defensive ends in the country in Elmore and Reed.
The problem for Cal won't be replacing first round draft pick Jahvid Best, Shane Vereen is another in a great line of backs to have come out of Berkley. The problems are everywhere else. Is QB Kevin Riley going to live up to expectations? Is someone going to step up and be a solid number two receiver behind Marvin Jones? Can the defense stop people? Can Cal stay mentally strong (the Bears were blown out five times last season)? Jeff Tedford seems to do better when expectations are low so we will see this season.
Head Coach Rick Neuheisel is slowly bringing UCLA back to prominence, but they need to get the offense going. A switch to the pistol offense and some fresh talent will help UCLA improve on their 88th ranked offense from last season. The defense should be ok again and kicker Kai Forbath is automatic (We Tennessee fans know that). Neuheisel thinks eight wins is possible. Right now I see seven.
The Sundevils' offense disappeared last season so coach Dennis Erickson switched to an air-raid passing attack. We will see if the change is enough to help ASU score some points. The defense should be ok, but the offense has to get better or else Erickson might be gone by the end of the year.
Well the Cougars can't get any worse. No really they can't. Last season they were 119th in total offense and 120th in total defense giving up 512 yards a game and 357 points while only scoring 80. The offensive line gave up 53 sacks last season, they should be charged with assault for letting their quarterback get hit so many times. I don't see much joy in Pullman this season.
Up Next: The Big XII
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Looks like the ACC is finally stating to climb back to a powerful conference for the first time since they expanded to 12 teams. The ACC has a few teams that are ready to make an impact on the national scene. Both divisions are up for grabs so lets see who will be playing in the championship game in Charlotte this year.
Champion - Florida State
It is going to be so strange watching the Seminoles play without Bobby Bowden roaming the sidelines. New coach Jimbo Fisher inherits the most talented team in Tallahassee since the early 2000s. Most of the offense hinges around senior QB Christian Ponder who missed the last few games last year because of a separated shoulder. If his shoulder holds up the Seminoles should have a very powerful offense. The defense is another story. FSU ranked 94th in total defense and things will have to improve this year. A new scheme and new coaches will hopefully help. FSU has to travel to Norman to play the Sooners in week 2 and have their usual battles with Miami and Florida. The Seminoles are back on the rise and it starts with a trip to the ACC Title game this year.
Runner Up - Boston College
It doesn't seem to matter who coaches the Eagles, they always seem to win eight or nine games every season. They will be back at it again this season. RB Montel Harris is one of the best backs in the ACC setting freshman and sophomore records at Chestnut Hill. They need to get some competent receivers to keep defenses from stacking the line. The Eagles already solid linebackers have a chance to be great with the return of 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich after winning his battle with bone cancer.
Great to have Kyle Parker back under center and he must feel great after signing a million dollar deal to play baseball later. This team has the talent to compete in the conference, but how can they replace an all time great like C.J. Spiller?
Looks like the wolfpack are ready to turn things around. Russell Wilson is a playmaker at QB, leading the conference in touchdown passes with 31. With question marks at running back and on the offensive line Russell might have to pitch it around even more this season. The wolfpack have a great chance to make a bowl.
It has been fun the past few seasons to see the Demon Deacons be competitive going to three bowl games in four years. However, QB Riley Skinner is not running the offense anymore. Wake has solid talent on offense but the defense has to step up. Never put it past Head Coach Jim Grobe to create a winner.
Teams did not "Fear the Turtle" last season with Maryland only going 2-10. Athletic Director Debbie Yow has made it clear that a winning record is needed for Head Coach Ralph Friedgen to keep his job. There is talent on this team, mostly on offense, but the defense will have to force an occasional punt this season.
Champion - Virginia Tech
It is a season of opposites for the Hokies this year. For once Virginia Tech is stacked on offense and the defense will have to catch up. QB Tyrod Taylor is a proven winner and has possibly the best tandem of running backs outside of Alabama with Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Meanwhile, for the first time in a long time there are question marks on defense and special teams in Blacksburg. Of course Frank Beamer and Bud Foster have been at this a long time so expect the defense and Beamer Ball to be just fine. The Hokies have a doozy to start the season facing Boise State in D.C. if they can get by the Broncos (I think they will) they have to play Georgia Tech, at UNC and at Miami to round out the year. It is going to be tough but I think the Hokies have a chance to do something big this season.
Runner Up - Miami
The Hurricanes have the best collection of athletes in the ACC and they have finally begun to mature. QB Jacory Harris is poised to be a top star, but he is going to have to make plays behind three new offensive linemen. The defense is back to that old Miami speed again. To return to elite status, Miami must navigate a tough early stretch at Ohio State, at Pitt, and at Clemson. The Hurricanes get through that and the swagger might be back.
The Tar Heels might have six to seven players picked in the first two rounds of next year's draft. Sadly they are all on defense and the offense has been nowhere near spectacular. The season opener in Atlanta against LSU will be very telling. If the offense can score at all, the defense could lead them to a championship.
As a fan of the option I have loved watching the Yellow Jackets the past two seasons under Paul Johnson. QB Joshua Nesbitt returns to run the attack, but the Jackets have to find replacements for RB Jonathan Dwyer and WR Demaryius Thomas and that won't be easy. If new defensive coordinator Al Groh can improve the defense and new skill players can step up, the Ramblin' Wreck will be in the title picture.
Former Tennessee Offensive Coordinator David Cutcliffe has made Duke watchable. Winning nine games in his first two seasons is nothing short of phenomenal (Duke won ten in the eight seasons prior). The talent level is slowly getting better but losing QB Thaddeus Lewis is not good. Of course, we know Cutcliffe can mold quarterbacks (See Peyton and Eli). Can this be the year the Blue Devils make it back to a bowl?
New Head Coach Mike London is energetic and won a national title at Richmond in 2008. He knows how to win and has shaken the apathy off the program. Not enough playmakers this season but the Cavaliers will be back soon.
ACC Champion - Virginia Tech
Hokies not only compete for the conference championship, but a win over Boise State in the opener puts them in the National Title race.
Up Next: The Pac-10
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It's almost that time of year! Football is back. Some high school football is already underway and college football kicks off next Thursday. The anticipation is always so much fun, I can't wait till the games get underway. Of course I will be doing my usual "Pick'em" game again this season through my blog so I can't wait to see who is the best this year (maybe for once it will be me).
So let's get the preview underway starting with the weakest of the BCS conferences, the Big East.
The Big East as it always seems to went down to the final week of the season with Cincinnati beating Pitt in a classic in the snow to take the title and the BCS bowl berth. However, the Bearcats got shelled in the Sugar Bowl 51-24 by the Florida Gators in Tim Tebow's last college game. The Big East did go 4-2 in bowl games last season and has set the stage for another wild race for the championship in 2010 as five teams have a decent shot at the title.
Champion - Pittsburgh
The Panthers have three legitimate All-American candidates in RB Dion Lewis, WR Jonathan Baldwin, and DE Greg Romeus. Head Coach Dave Wannstedt has been stockpiling talent and has come within a game of winning the title the last two seasons, only to lose to Cincinnati. This is the year the Panthers get over the hump. It will not be easy though, they are breaking in a new quarterback and they have a tough non-conference schedule starting the season at Utah and then play Miami and Notre Dame as well. However, they have the best overall talent in the league and should finish the season on top.
Runner Up - Connecticut
The Huskies overcame so much last season after the murder of Jasper Howard. They rallied to win their last four games including a bowl win over South Carolina. Head Coach Randy Edsall has built himself a solid program going to a bowl in three straight years. This season the Huskies return 17 starters and they get West Virginia, Pitt, and Cincinnati at home. The Huskies run the ball well and play great defense. That will keep them in games and maybe get them to the championship.
RB Noel Devine is a burner and the Mountaineers return 19 starters. However, they are breaking in a new quarterback and it looks like the overall talent has dropped off a little since Rich Rod left Morgantown.
Zach Collaros proved he could play well in relief of Tony Pike last year. The Bearcats have won 18 straight regular season games so they know how to win. But Head Coach Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame. Did he take some of the magic with him?
It was not too long ago that Scarlet Knights Head Coach Greg Schiano was the hottest coaching commodity in the country after resurrecting a long dormant Rutgers program. Now after a few winning seasons, but no Big East Championships fans are wondering if Schiano has lost his touch. A sub par offensive line and running game keeps the Scarlet Knights out of the title picture.
New coach Skip Holtz (Lou's son) will keep things fun in Tampa as the offense will score points led by QB B.J. Daniels, but the defense took a huge hit losing pass rushers George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Bulls will have to outscore people all season.
The Orange have begun a slow climb back to respectability under coach Doug Marrone. But they only have 52 scholarship players so depth is a big issue. They are still about 2-3 years away.
New Head Coach Charlie Strong has re-energized a program that was in the title picture not too long ago. Strong is a defensive guy, but he has lots of rebuilding to do on that side of the ball if the Cardinals are to be competitive.
Up Next: The ACC
Friday, August 13, 2010
I know some of you have been curious as to what those "big changes" were about that I had mentioned on facebook the past month or so. I wanted to make sure I had notified certain people before I let everyone else know here. So, in the spirit of LeBron James I am finally able to announce my decision (but I am not being a jerk about it and I don't think anyone will be burning a picture of me.)
I will be packing up and leaving Virginia Beach for Knoxville on September 7. The writing was on the wall that I could not really move forward with what I want to do in Hampton Roads so I have decided to make the move back to Rocky Top. I already have a place lined up out in west Knoxville behind the mall. I am very excited to finally get out on my own. Now all I need to do is find a full time job and I will be all set (I am grateful as always to my parents for helping me get started out there).
So yes I will say goodbye to the beach in a few weeks, but it will be great to be back in Big Orange Country! Of course there is more waiting for me when I get there and it's very special!
P.S. So for some of you who are out of town but need a place to say for a football Saturday I am happy to help!