Thursday, July 21, 2011

Big East and Big 12 Previews

We are roughly 6 weeks away from kickoff of college football season, which undoubtedly has the greatest regular season in all of sports.  From now until kickoff, we will bring you conference previews of each BCS conference.  Typically, we will preview one conference per week.  I will give my analysis on one division and my trusty side-kick, Joseph Michael, will give his take on the other division.  We will include the predicted overall and conference records for each team and place the teams in their order of finish.  We will then pick our conference champ for the conferences that have championship games. 

As you probably all know by now, all but two conferences have divisions and conference championship games.  This is due to the two curmudgeon leagues (PAC-12 and Big Ten) soaring into the 20th century by adding teams and splitting up their teams into divisions.  Word on the streets is that now the Big Ten is on the brink of deciding as a conference that this whole world wide web thing may have some staying power; they are all over it I tell ya.  Due to these events, we will first tackle the two conferences that do not have divisions/conference title games – the Big East and the Big 12 who had a couple of teams poached last year in Nebraska and Colorado to lose their divisional play.  Enough making fun of the Big Ten…it’s too easy.  On with the conference breakdowns.

The conference that sent a stellar Connecticut team into a BCS bowl last year only to get destroyed 48-20 by Oklahoma is back this year and as mediocre as ever.  I bet TCU cannot wait to get in this conference next year with a BCS bid up for grabs every year.  This is the only conference that plays five out of conference (OOC) opponents due to there being only eight conference teams.  Some load up on cupcakes with the OOC schedule; others have surprisingly guaranteed themselves two or three losses with their scheduling.

Big East Conference

  1. South Florida (8-4 overall, 5-2 conference):  I waste no time on a surprising pick.  USF improved tremendously last season as Skip Holtz took over as head coach – beating Clemson in their bowl game and narrowly losing to Pitt and UConn while winning 5 of their last 7, including winning at Miami in a non-conference neighbor showdown.  Although it seems BJ Daniels has been at USF since the football program began in 1997, he is only a junior.  He has played in 27 games for the Bulls and is very athletic.  He needs to cut down on his turnovers though.  The Bulls have 5 returning starters on offense and 6 on defense.  They are also getting some added help on the offensive side of the ball with three transfers from BCS conference teams, including Darrell Scott formerly from Colorado.  He was the #1 RB out of high school in 2008 who transferred due to lack of playing time.  The Bulls conference schedule shakes out pretty well for them this year.  They have Cincy, Louisville and West Virginia at home – the latter could very well be for a conference title and BCS berth.  The road games could be tough at Pitt, UConn, Rutgers and Syracuse, but the only one in potential bad weather for the south Florida boys is early November at Rutgers.  I see them splitting the road games and going undefeated at home to get to a 5-2 mark in conference, which should be good enough to win the conference.  An intriguing matchup to start the season is at Notre Dame.   
  2. Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2):  Cincy misses out on the conference title because the game versus USF is in Tampa.  However, I really like this team and Zach Collaros.  Collaros was terrible at the beginning of the year dealing with life after Brian Kelly who went to Notre Dame, and the defense had trouble defending anyone last year giving up 27 or more in 10 of 12 games.  Good news is the defense returns ten starters from last year (they couldn’t get any worse this year right?).  Collaros is the top QB in this conference and is a dual-threat guy.  Cincy also returns Isaiah Pead who ran for over 1,000 yards and DJ Woods who caught for almost 900 yards last year on offense.  Cincy will be able to put up the points this year for sure.  In conference, Cincy has West Virginia, Louisville and UConn at home and at USF, Pitt, Rutgers and Syracuse.  Just like USF, I think Cincy splits the road games and wins the home games.  The Bearcats go to Neyland Stadium to take on the Vols on 9/10 in nonconference.
  3. Syracuse (8-4, 4-3):  Syracuse, who some how managed to go 0-3 at home in 2010 versus Big East teams, has improved tremendously and quickly with Doug Marrone as head coach.  The Orange return 8 starters on offense and 5 on defense.  The Orange had trouble scoring points in long stretches last year but should be in better shape this year with the return of QB Ryan Nassib.  The schedule sets up where the tough games are at home.  I think the ‘Cuse get a lot better at home this year despite visits from Cincy, USF, and West Virginia while the road trips to Louisville, UConn and Pitt will keep them from winning the conference.  Syracuse goes to USC on 9/17 in nonconference action.  
  4. West Virginia (8-4, 4-3):  This is my big bust for the year in the Big East just as they were last year.  Nearly everyone is picking them to win the league despite all the drama going on with interim/now fired head coach Bill Stewart and the guy with the receding hairline/mullet thing goin on (he’s gonna fit in great in WV), Dana Holgorsen, who was hired as coach in waiting but got to bring in his own staff for this season for Stewart to coach with.  Can you say awkward?  Anyway, that doesn’t matter now as Stewart was fired because he was trying to smear Holgorsen’s partying ways in the newspapers.  So Holgorsen becomes head coach a year early.  I believe teams are going to take a step back anytime a new head coach is brought in, especially one that doesn’t have head coaching experience at this level.  West Virginia loses mainstay, productive running back Noel Devine; I think he was on the BJ Daniels degree plan.  Geno Smith is back as their QB as well as 7 other starters on offense.  Their defense was dominate in Big East terms last year, but they lose a lot from that squad with only 4 starters returning.  The Mountaineers schedule is tough on the road this year with games at Syracuse, Rutgers, Cincy and USF, which will keep them from winning the Big East.     
  5. Connecticut (7-5, 3-4):  New coach this year, which makes it hard to repeat as champ of this conference.  They lose their running back Jordan Todman who for some unknown reason left school early to go to the NFL.  He was later drafted in the 6th round of the draft.  UConn also returns 9 starters on defense, which will keep them in games.  However, the offense is not there, and their road schedule at West Virginia, Pitt and Cincy are three guaranteed losses in my opinion.
  6. Louisville (6-6, 3-4):  Charlie Strong has the Cardinals on the right track, but he is still a year or two away from competing for the conference’s big prize.  He returns only 3 starters on offense and 7 on defense.  Games at Cincy, West Virginia, UConn and USF along with nonconference games at Kentucky and North Carolina don’t bode well for much improvement in the win-loss column this year.  He should be a happy with a bowl berth this year, which I believe he will get…barely.
  7. Pittsburgh (5-7, 3-4):  Add Todd Graham to the list of coaches riding Gus Malzahn’s coattails to get notoriety that are undeserved as a head coach along with Houston Nutt and Gene Chizik.  I think he is one of the most overrated coaches in the nation.  He’s coming to Pitt from Tulsa where Malzahn was his coordinator for a year.  He has grind-it-out offensive personnel carried over from the Wannstedt years now, and he intends to implement his spread offense.  Good luck with that.  We have seen this fail numerous times – the Auburn/Tuberville/Franklin and Michigan/Rich Rod experiments quickly come to mind.  Pitt does get four Big East home games this year, so if they some how figure out this offense, they could end up better than this prediction.  I just don’t see it.
  8. Rutgers (3-9, 1-6):  Greg Schiano, who was the darling of New Jersey just a couple of years ago, is slowly getting on the hot seat.  Rutgers ended up 4-8 last year and lost its last 6 games.  Tom Savage, who was supposed to be the savior at QB, did terrible last year and transferred to Arizona.  Nine starters return on offense but only 5 on defense.  Typically, I would say the team should improve, but when it comes down to it, the rest of the teams in the Big East are better at this point even though I am not completely sold on my prediction of 1-6 in conference.  Surely they are better than that aren’t they?


Big 12 Conference

Well, I'd like to start off by thanking Ernie for the opportunity to do this again this year.  We had a lot of fun last year and hopefully we'll improve, give you some insight and have a little fun along the way.  All that being said, I'm not real happy with the boss (Ernie) for giving me the Big 12, I mean, I guess it's the new thing to have your conference named something with a number that has nothing to do with you.  To me there is a better chance of you going to a John Mayer concert and not seeing a pair of panties go flying onto the stage then to have a conference named appropriately.  My advice, which means nothing to the Big 12, would be to call TCU and Houston up and say "hey boys, we're getting the band back together and call it the New SWC (Southwestern Conference), but enough ranting and raving about how confusing college football is becoming.  I'm sure I'll be fired up to the point of being outlandish once the season starts.  Let's get to the predictions of the Big 12 that now has 10 teams.
As a disclaimer, these are my picks, if I picked your team high, beware, if I picked your team low and they aren't Kansas or Iowa St., be excited, you're probably in for a nice season.
  1. Oklahoma- (11-1, 8-1): Should be no surprise here, returning 16 starters on offense and defense, including one of the most exciting players in the land, wide receiver Ryan Broyles.  Not sold on Landry Jones, which should be bothersome to Sooner fans since he is a redshirt Junior, but he was a 5 star recruit and the potential is definitely there.  Maybe they have some trouble down in Seminole nation early in the season, but I think having a week to prepare for Florida St. and the Noles breaking in a new QB, Oklahoma has the defense to make that hard on them.  I see them eventually winning that game.  After that, I think they cruise - they have A&M at home and I think they ride in to Stillwater 11-0 and have the Pokes ruin their day, night, season and National Title hopes...
  2. Oklahoma St. (10-2, 7-2): Shoot Em, Shoot Em Pistol Pete, you know the rest of the chant.  It's mildly distasteful to say the least.  Anyway, I think the Cowboys will beat Oklahoma and Texas A&M, but find a way to lose 2 other games somewhere along the way.  @Texas, @ Missouri are my guesses, but that's all they are. But let's talk about this offense - Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon came out of nowhere last year, so they won't be surprising anyone this season and it's still not going to matter.  Even losing future NFL running back Kendall Hunter to the draft, I still expect Weeden and Blackmon to put up video game stats.  Not to mention they return 4 starters on the Offensive Line and I want you to remember these names, Herschel Sims and Joseph Randle, who had 5 Starts last year.  I know they are young Running Backs, but they have the talent and speed to make Poke fans forget all about Kendall Hunter. Defensively, I don't think they are as deep as they want to be; however, at the same time, I don't think anyone outside of Alabama is in the country.  Johnny Thomas is a playmaker at safety and heads up a fine secondary. I may regret picking them this high early, but I just think Weeden has too many toys and to me the best deep threat in college football.  They win every big game and lose a couple they shouldn't, mark it down.
  3. Texas A&M (9-3, 7-2): As much as it pains me to pick A&M this high, I have to by default.  I don't think they'll be able to handle back to back games with Oklahoma St. and non conference rival Arkansas, but after that, I think they put together a nice, but to Aggie fans, an underacheiving year.  They return 18 starters and seem to have finally found a QB to go along with running backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael.  Looking really good at receiver with Jeff Fuller and Uzoma Nwachukwu too.  Also, I think that starting two true freshman at the tackle postions last year will start to pay dividends this year.  Their defense, I've got to be honest, I don't know a whole lot about, but I can't see losing a guy like Von Miller and it not having a negative impact.  All that aside, put some relish on your hot dog Aggie fans, you should be in for a great season.
  4. Kansas St. (7-5, 5-4): That's right boys and girls. I'm putting all my stock in the Brown Brothers. Former 5 star recruits Bryce (RB) and older brother Arthur (LB), but it's not just that, I just really like this team and besides from their game @ Miami, I love their schedule.  I also think Bill Snyder has one last run in him.  However, it's all going to fall on Justin Tuggle, former Boston College QB, who transferred to JUCO and is now back in Manhattan, Kansas, hoping to make me look brilliant.  The talent on the D is there, will the offense show?  Will they win all the games they are supposed to?  Can they pull one upset?  If all those questions answer yes, then the Wildcats aren't just going bowlin baby, they're having a nice year.
  5. Texas (8-4, 5-4): That's right folks, I have more faith in the Macarena making a comeback than I do Garrett Gilbert making a solid QB.  I know they have talent out of the wazoo on both sides of the ball, but I just don't think he can or will get it done.  I look for them to underacheive mainly because of quarterback play again in 2011.  Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with my dislike for Texas, as you read earlier, I picked A&M 3rd, I just can't see this team winning more than 5 games in the SWC.  And as bad as I want to right now, I will refrain from making a Gilbert Gottfried joke.  I may eat shit for this prediction, but that's what I'm not paid to do is give you my opinion and that's what I think about the Longhorns.  Good luck getting the ball Malcolm Williams.
  6. Missouri (7-5, 5-4): Well you lost Blaine Gabbert, and James Franklin steps in, so let's see if he can put up the gaudy numbers that Gabbert did - 16 TD's and 9 Interceptions last season.  So let's chalk that intro up to sarcasm, hopefully you don't think those are gaudy numbers.  They should start out fast winning 2 of 3 and then close out with 2 very winnable home games.  They had a small but very good recruiting class and this is no insult to the Missouri program, but the Baylor game is huge, because if you lose that, you may end up behind them at (6-6) and hoping for a bowl berth.
  7. Baylor (6-6, 4-5): Robert Griffin III, need I say more?  Wow, one of my favorite players to watch in college football.  This guy is so exciting I don't mind watching a game on FSN who I'm pretty sure uses the same cameramen as the Home Shopping Network.  I don't expect Baylor to have much of a running game outside of his scrambling ability, but the guy is phenomenal and worth 2 or 3 wins.  Good news is he is just a Jr. and the Bears have a few good young players on defense.  The ball bounces the right way for these guys, and they could have a good year, real nice year for Baylor.  But if it doesn't it could get ugly.  They start with TCU and end with Texas.  They have to hope they can find 6 or 7 wins in the 10 games sandwiched in between to fulfill my prophecy.  Either way, watch out for them in 2012.
  8. Texas Tech (4-8, 3-6): Tommy Tuberville's job isn't getting any easier turning a team known for it's unreal numbers into a defensive powerhouse, but as the Macho Man Randy Savage used to say " the beat goes on and the beat goes on", you didn't get that?  Good, neither did I.  I just needed a filler because I have no interest in writing about a team I'm predicting to win 4 ball games and one of those is against the Texas St. Fighting Armadillos.  Good luck Red Raiders - I do like your mascot, and your coach for that matter..
  9. Iowa St. (2-10, 1-8): Their best player is an offensive tackle, hopefully I needn't say more.  They will win one conference game against an awful Kansas Jayhawk team. Next....
  10. Kansas (2-10, 0-9): Rock Chalk Jayhawk.  I love the hire of Turner Gill.  I think he is a fine coach, and if he is given a couple of more years, he'll turn everything Mangino built up and tore down back to where he built it up.  I wonder if Mangino is trying out for the Biggest Loser yet by the way?  Whole different story... Anyway, good news Jayhawk fans, basketball season isn't much further away.
Good luck Big 12 and Big 12 fans, I hope you can get it together and get some more members, but it isn't looking good, and neither are your teams after the top... Thank God It's Saturday is officially back...


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