Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Week One - A Viewer's Guide

The waiting is over.  No more watching old games, getting scrimmage updates and talking about what fifth stringer dominated the spring game.  It’s time for the real thing.  Most teams have scheduled glorified scrimmage games this weekend but two games in particular will have national title implications right out of the gate.  It’s funny how other conferences like to dog SEC team’s nonconference scheduling, but the SEC, more often than not, has the marquee nonconference games of the week, which is the case once again in the opening week of 2011.
The blog is gonna have a little different format at least for this week.  We will run down the games in order by kickoff and TV schedule.  I will tell you what you should be watching as the long weekend goes on (remember we have games on Thursday – Labor Day night).  I am still going to pick a winner in the SEC games and the big national games and pick a couple of games in the “If I were a bettin’ man” section, but I just wanted to switch it up a bit. 
Note:  The games below do not include Rice @ Texas.  If you have your own network and no one in the nation is subscribed to the network to watch the game, does the game really happen?
Thursday:  There will be a lot of excitement surrounding the first night of football, but it will likely be uneventful.
5:00:  Murray State @ Louisville (ESPNU) – Congratulations Murray State, you will have more eyes watching your football game than ever before.  Don’t screw it up.  You’re probably gonna be stuck watching this game until…
7:00:  UNLV @ #11 Wisconsin (ESPN) – I’m probably gonna watch this game just long enough to see those crazy Northerners jump around to the House of Pain song before kickoff.  After that, I expect UNLV to get blown out immediately.  So I’m gonna tune to…
#20 Mississippi State @ Memphis (Fox Sports) – Everybody’s darling, Mississippi State, starts another season.  Dan Mullen is hoping they can get credit for beating all unranked teams like last year again.  This shouldn’t be much of a game after the first half, but the Memphis guys will be pumped to play a neighboring SEC school.  Bulldogs 31-14.
Wake Forest @ Syracuse ( – See “If I were a bettin man…” below.
8:15: Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky (ESPNU) – Excuse me!  I thought it was against the law for the big state school to schedule a game with the lowly, in-state Sun Belt team.  What a crazy idea – somebody send the memo out!  Watch Western’s RB Bobby Rainey in this one.  He ran for 1,600 yards last year.  This game is in Nashville at LP Field.  It takes the Wildcats a while, but they pull away.  Please don’t stay up late watching this whole game.  You have to work the next day, but more importantly, you have a lot of football ahead of you this weekend.  Big Blue 35-17.
 9:00 UC Davis @ Arizona State (Fox Sports) – I will watch this just long enough to see Sun Devil LB Vontaze Burfict rip someone’s head off.
7:00: #14 TCU @ Baylor (ESPN) – The first decent game of the weekend for me.  TCU’s nasty defense versus Baylor’s super athletic QB Robert Griffin.  Will TCU lose their first game since the 2009 season?  I think it could happen in Waco on Friday night.  Baylor 23-21
Saturday: The day has finally come.  Try to follow along – it’s gonna get crazy fast.  There will be times today and numerous times during the year that you will need to bring the second TV into the living room…oh and a laptop, don’t forget the laptop.  After all, there is almost a whole minute between plays, so you can watch at least three or four at once.
7:00 AM:  Wake up and get you a good breakfast.  I prefer anything from Chik-fil-a personally.  It’s gonna be a long day and you need your nourishment.  Get online and read your favorite gameday websites for any late developments.  Check to see which game lines have moved to see if you need to act quickly.
8:00 AM:  Watch the minor league hour of College Gameday.  Sure Erin Andrews is hot, but when she has to talk for more than one minute at a time like she does sideline reporting, she kinda struggles.  You may want to mow the yard if you need to get it done today – forget that you may wake the neighbors.  You have some serious football to watch ALL DAY.
9:00 – 11:00 AM:  College Gameday of course!  This may be a little extreme for the average fan, but I DVR it so I can multitask – go to the store and get supplies for the day, etc.  I get home and fast forward through the commercials and the segment they talk about the Big Ten and I’m all caught up again.
11:00 AM (or Big Ten kickoff time as I like to call it):  That’s right there are 5 Big Ten kickoffs at this time.  Spend 7 minutes each on the following games: Akron @ #18 Ohio State (ESPN), Northwestern @ Boston College (ESPNU), and Utah State @ Cam Newton-less #23 Auburn (ESPN2).  Auburn wins 31-10.  After you spend 7 minutes each on these, time to change the channel again.  Remember you have to knock off the rust of changing your remote just as these guys are knocking their rust off during opening week.
11:21 AM: Kent State @ #2 Alabama (ABC – SEC Network) –  Why in the hell does the SEC Network game kick off at 21 after the hour?  I bet Dave, Dave and Dave have something to do with it.  God be with former Pulaski Academy QB Spencer Keith as he leads Kent State into Bryant-Denny.  Saban may take it easy on them since KSU is Saban’s alma mater.  But then again, Sabana wouldn’t take it easy on his grandmother in a game of tiddlywinks.  Roll Tide 52-3.
At this point in the day, there is really nothing going on unless an upset is brewing in these earlier games.  Typical for the first week of the year.  Use this time to prepare some lunch, play some Baggo, fix some Man Dip (let me know if you need the recipe), or something else to pass your time.
2:30:  Now we’re getting somewhere.  Four ranked teams take the field at this time plus some other intriguing games.
South Florida @ #16 Notre Dame (NBC) – See “If I were a bettin man…” below.
Louisiana Monroe @ #6 Florida State (ESPNU) – I wanna see EJ Manuel and the Nole defense just really blow the doors off of ULM like the good ole days to let me know that they are for real this year.
Minnesota @ #25 Southern Cal (ABC or ESPN2) – Something you don’t see too often on opening week – two teams from BCS conferences squaring off.  USC’s offense will be fun to watch this year; their defense will give up a lot of points. 
Arkansas State @ Illinois (Big Ten Network) – Speaking of scoring, this should be a high scoring affair.  The Illini better not be taking the Red Wolves lightly.  ASU QB Ryan Aplin can get his offense down the field in a hurry.
3:45:  BYU @ Ole Miss (ESPN/ – This may be the first time of the day you want to crank up the second TV or the laptop.  With Houston Nutt, you never know what is gonna happen.  The newly independent BYU Cougars are venturing to the hot, humid south to take on the Black Bears.  BYU is favored in this one.  Something tells me Nutt knows he doesn’t have too many wins on his schedule this year, and he pulls it out somehow to avenge the opening day loss last year to Jacksonville State.  Ole Miss 21-20 (but I never pick Houston Nutt’s games right).  This game will take us into the big ones at night.  Don’t forget to keep the main TV on the South Florida-Notre Dame game until about 6 because it should be a 4 quarter game.
6:00:  #12 South Carolina vs. East Carolina in Charlotte (Fox Sports/ – Charlotte is almost directly between these two campuses.  Stephen Garcia better not be partying it up Friday night because the Pirates are gonna be ready to pull off the upset.  They have done it several times before, including 2008 when they beat Virginia tech and West Virginia in back-to-back weeks.  In the end, the Gamecock offense (ECU’s defense is terrible) and defense will be too much.  Gamecocks 38-24.
 Florida Atlantic @ #22 Florida – Another SEC/Sun Belt home state matchup…crazy I tell ya.  Muschamp’s first game as the Gator’s head coach.  Charlie Weis will feast on his first pre/during/post game meals in the Swamp.  It’s gonna be a memorable night!  Gators 42-9
#3 Oregon vs. #4 LSU in Dallas (ABC) – Finally!  The first great matchup of the year.  Top 5 teams at the best neutral venue in the nation.  Jordan Jefferson is out for LSU; Cliff Harris is out for the Ducks.  Jarrett “Touchdown After Int or TAInt” Lee is the Tigers QB.  The Tigers have unproven talent all over the place, but it is talented for sure.  We know what the Ducks have on offense – James, Thomas and a relentless pace.  In these marquee SEC versus another conference games, the SEC usually dominates when they have better line play on both sides of the ball.  Do you remember when a very average Auburn d-line dominated an experienced Oregon offensive line and stymied the Duck offense as a whole?  Well, LSU is deeper and more talented than that group of Auburn guys.  Oregon returns three o-line starters from last year.  Oregon returns one d-line starter; LSU returns one o-line starter.  I see LSU doing enough on offense to control the game, and Oregon’s offense being slowed down enough by the exceptional Tiger defense.  The defensive backfield is going to have to make some plays for LSU.  I’m being stubborn.  I think LSU still wins.  Geaux Tigers 24-23.
#5 Boise State vs. #19 Georgia (ESPN/ – This is apparently going to be the battle of the hideous uniforms – check out here (  Boise has shown that they are not scared to play anyone anywhere.  Georgia is playing in their backyard.  Kellen Moore, although kinda goofy, has been pretty clutch in his career and is a very efficient passer.  They are replacing the bulk of their receiving yards but still have 1,000 rusher Doug Martin on offense and the defense returns 7 starters.  Georgia just doesn’t have the great defense that they had 5-10 years ago even with their new defensive coordinator.  They lost AJ Green on offense and lacks great skill position players.  Aaron Murray is a highly rated QB for them even though I am not sold on him yet.  I was on the fence about this game until I heard today that Georgia kick returner Brandon Boykin was talking trash to Boise’s Coach Peterson via Twitter today.  What an idiot.  As if Boise needed anymore motivation.  Give me the Broncos 24-23.
9:15 PM:  Colorado @ Hawaii (ESPN2) – Oh the late night Hawaii game.  It has been gamblers’ double or nothing game for years.  It will go past midnight if you have the stamina to last that long.  You may need a Red Bull (and vodka).
 Sunday:  We’re not done yet.  Only a few more games, and you have survived the weekend.
2:30: Marshall @ #24 West Virginia (ESPN) – Nothing better than a good ole hate match for a Sunday afternoon.  This is a big deal in West Virginia.  The Mountaineers are gonna roll in this one.
6:30: SMU @ #8 Texas A&M (Fox Sports) – Is this the new Big 12 team versus the newest old Big 12 team?  The scoreboard may blow up in this one.  You have a June Jones SMU offense returning 10 starters and a Texas A&M offense that is returning 9 starters including QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray and WR Jeff Fuller.  They may be the best trio in the nation.  The Aggies better show up for this one, or they could be in trouble.  Take the over in this one.  I’ll take the Aggies at home 41-30.
7:00 Miami @ Maryland (ESPN) –  Not your typical big name Labor Day matchup, but I’ll watch it.  Maryland is high on sophomore QB Danny O’Brien, and new coach Randy Edsall will be looking to pick up a big win in his first game.  It should be a good atmosphere, and the Hurricane suspensions change everyday.  I’m going to go with the home team and an upset here.  Terps 20-17.
In other SEC games not mentioned above, Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt start out 1-0 against terrible competition.
  If I Were a Bettin’ Man…
Wake Forest @ Syracuse (-6.5) – This one is pretty simple.  Wake was terrible last year and although they have 7 starters returning on both sides of the ball, they are still bad.  Doug Marrone led the Orange to their first bowl since 2004 and first win since 2001.  This is his third year, which is the year where good coaches usually turn the corner.  Well, he’s a good one.  They have 8 returning on offense, including QB Ryan Nassib, and 5 on defense.  Take Syracuse in this one.
South Florida (+10) @ #16 Notre Dame – Skip Holtz returns to South Bend where his dad Lou spoke with a lisp and coached the Irish for 11 years.  The Irish are highly ranked this year for four reasons:  1) they are Notre Dame, 2) the schedule is very easy, 3) they won their bowl game last year against Miami, and 4) Brian Kelly is their coach.  I am a huge Kelly fan, so I will give you that one.  In other words, the Irish are overrated.  South Florida is flying under the radar in the Big East and also beat Miami last year.  They have a very fast, athletic team, and QB BJ Daniels has started a lot of games.  I think the Irish win here but just by a field goal or touchdown.
Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, August 29, 2011

SEC Preview

Is the SEC not the biggest soap opera going?  When it’s not winning its 5th straight BCS national title during the season, there is always a new rumor or story off-the-field – suspensions, rules violations, drunken fights, and the list goes on and on.  There is no offseason for the SEC as far as making news headlines.  To sum up the offseason within the SEC, here’s a quick rundown:

Alabama banned a booster who sure did like to dine with the players and allowed them to hang out in his suit store and sign lots and lots of autographs, which appear to have been subsequently sold in some cases.  Auburn has been getting less respect than any defending champion than I can remember due to Cam Newton’s eligibility questions from last year.  We keep hearing news is going to break about an Auburn/Newton pay-for-play scheme, but they have all been rumors thus far.  Jordan Jefferson and some more LSU Tigers are facing felony assault charges as of Friday, which will likely cause them to miss some games and maybe even the season.  Arkansas had their best player and Heisman candidate Knile Davis go down for the season in a preseason practice.  Houston Nutt and Dan Mullen have been taking jabs at each other all offseason to determine who the biggest dork is in all of Mississippi.

Florida has a new head coach (Will Muschamp) who likes to refer to himself in 3rd person.  He brought along Charlie “Ate the Chocolate Factory” Weis to call offensive plays.  South Carolina players and coaches have lived it up since their first east title (and 5 total losses) from last year to make news this offseason – Stephen Garcia got his 5th suspension lifted, Alshon Jeffery didn’t miss a meal this offseason (google Alshon Jeffery fat), and Garcia’s QB coach G.A. Mangus likes to pee on sidewalks and get arrested.  Caleb King, UGA’s returning starting RB, could not pass the difficult 6 hours required to stay eligible to play football this fall, and he is now in the NFL.  Janzen Jackson, Tennessee’s best defender, couldn’t stay away from the weed and got kicked off the team this week.  The Vols were not given any additional sanctions by the NCAA from the investigation relating to Lane Kiffin’s trainwreck tenure at UT.  Kentucky and Vanderbilt both still have a football team as far as I know.

Now that you have been updated on the off-the-field issues, let’s look at what is gonna happen on the field this season.  Joseph takes the west and Ernie takes the east for a very biased look at each division.      

Western Division

  1. Alabama (13-0 overall, 8-0 conference):  That’s right, I'm picking them to win the National Championship again.  To me, Trent Richardson on offense and that defense is just that good.  AJ McCarron looks like the starting QB although the coaches say that Phillip Sims has more talent than any other QB that has been on campus in the Saban Era.  That's not sayin a whole lot since that era includes Greg McElroy and John Parker Wilson.  But I suspect they meant it as a compliment.  Eddie Lacy provides Trent Richardson a more than credible backup.  Everyone talks about their lack of a vertical threat in the passing game, but I feel like someone will emerge and not take Julio Jones place, it's just you've got to realize and understand that McCarron can throw the ball farther than McElroy and JPW combined.  That's going to stretch the field in itself.  As far as the defense goes, I am flabbergasted at the amount of talent they have - maybe the best linebacking corps in the country, top 3 secondary at worst, and as with any Nick Saban coached team, the front four is big, fast and scary which will naturally wreak havoc on many of the untested QB's in the SEC.  If they can go up to Happy Valley and beat the ageless wonder Joe Pa on September 10th, I think they find a way to win them all and eventually win the SEC and National Championship.

  1. LSU (9-3, 6-2):  I realize the loss of Jordan Jefferson shouldn't mean much, but when 3 of your first 4 games are against Oregon, @Mississippi St. and @West Virginia and your backup is the Human Interception Machine Jarrett Lee, I really believe they start out 2-2.  From there it gets way better and they'll end up with a nice season.  Their front four on D is inexperienced, but what they lack in experience, they more than make up for in a silly amount of talent.  Their back 7 is nice and deep.  I'd put Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu up at corner with anyone in the country as a duo.  Offensively, it will be interesting to see what they can do, but the fact remains they return quite a bit of experience on the offensive line.  Spencer Ware is a really good running back, and they have wide receivers on that campus that we've never even heard of because they can't make the team.  What I'm trying to say is they are loaded at the skill positions except for the most important one, quarterback.    

  1. Arkansas (9-3, 5-3):  If you'd have asked me this a few weeks ago I may have picked the Razorbacks to win the west.  But losing Knile Davis is going to hurt.  I've read Wingo is finally trying to do away with the nickname "tippy toe Wingo," and I've seen what Dennis Johnson can do when he stays out of the doghouse.  The wide receivers are sick.  Pick one and I can tell you a thousand good things about them, and I'm a believer in Tyler Wilson.  Hell, I even think our defense is going to be really good if Eric Bennett can adjust to Safety, Tevin Mitchel keeps Ike Madison off of the field, and Darius Winston lives up to the hype.  It's all going to come down to offensive line play.  We lost Ray "False Start" Dominguez, Wade "bring a big play back because of a hold" Grayson and Seth Oxner who was a really good backup at all the positions.  You figure that into the only tackle we have with any experience is Grant Freeman and that's scary.  But the cupboard isn't bare.  Mitch Smothers has looked good at tackle this fall, Brey Cook has all the talent in the world, and Jason Peacock has two years of Juco experience.  If those guys step up and give Wilson time, this could be a special year on Dickson, I mean in Fayetteville.        

  1. Mississippi State (7-5, 3-5):  Dan Mullen continues to build Starkville back up.  Unfortunately, they need more cowbell!  Their SEC schedule is brutal, and Chris Relf is still their quarterback.  I love Dan Mullen and I love what he is doing, but there is no way I could pick them to do better than what I have predicted because of their schedule.  They may be able to upset South Carolina at home because Stephen Garcia may be dating Lady GaGa, be in Rehab or both by then.  However, if the Bulldogs do any better than 8-4, Dan Mullen deserves National Coach of the year honors.  I would be remised if I didn't mention Vick Ballard - that guy is a horse - and Charles Mitchell at safety is a 1st round pick next year.  Put that in your memory bank.  May want to grab his rookie card 2012.         

  1. Auburn (4-8, 1-7):  Well, a year removed from a National Championship and buying, I mean signing a top 5 recruiting class, it looks like Auburn will come back to earth.  This team has had more mischief than an old episode of Dennis the Menace, and it doesn't look to be any better for the season.  Oh yeah, there was a quarterback battle this fall between Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier.  I would guarantee you that I care more about what guests Ellen DeGeneres is having on her show this week than I do who wins that duel.  But feel free to let me know who wins that sissy fight.  Michael Dyer is good, Onterio McCalebb is good and they have some nice receivers, but Cam Newton and Nick Fairley made that team, and even the dumbest asses in the world know that.  Time to come back to the real world Auburn fans, and just like the old MTV show, The Real World sucks.        

  1. Mississippi (4-8, 1-7):  For two and a half years, Ole Miss fans would walk up to me and say "thanks for the coach."  I would just bite my tongue, tell them to go to the bar and put a Smirnoff Ice on my tab and enjoy the ride because it's going to be a short one.  Now to all of you I'd like to say I told you so.  Houston Nutt is terrible, has no class (look up what one of his assistants said after the Knile Davis injury if you can’t take my word).  Look, I don't want to rip on Ole Miss because there just isn't any point, and they do have some classy fans.  So Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty, I hope we cover the spread... against the Southern Illinois Salukis.  Or maybe just play for the win, because a win is a win with Houston Nutt and we all remember the Jacksonville St. game last year don't we???


Eastern Division

  1. South Carolina (10-3, 6-2):  As I mentioned in the opening, South Carolina has seemed somewhat sloppy this offseason, and I am wondering if they are fat and happy since they won the division last year.  Stephen Garcia is still in Columbia somehow.  They have arguably the most talented WR/RB duo in the nation this year with Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery.  They also have a couple of other talented receivers in Moore and Sanders.  Will Garcia finally show up every Saturday and play at his best?  Garcia has let Spurrier down numerous times.  The defense has about as much promise as the offense with 6-7 Devin Taylor and 6-6 #1 high school player in the nation Jadeveon Clowney at ends.  The Gamecocks also have an experienced defensive backfield.  The Gamecocks are the most talented team in the down SEC East without question.  Can they stay consistent is the question.  I think the division comes down to the second week when the Gamecocks go to Athens to take on Georgia.  I have Carolina winning that game and the division, but they’ll likely trip up at some point during the season in a game they shouldn’t lose.       

  1. Georgia (9-3, 6-2):  Georgia is just 14-13 the last two seasons, and some fans are becoming impatient with coach Mark Richt.  Well he has some help on his side this year with by far the easiest SEC schedule and one that rivals Auburn’s last year when they marched to the national title game.  The Dawgs play the three worst teams in the west, have Florida in Jacksonville as usual, and South Carolina at home.  The only potential true road game they could lose is at Tennessee.  The Dawgs have lost Ealy and King as RBs this offseason.  That leaves a true freshman (Isaiah Crowell) to carry the load at RB and the unrealistic expectations Dawg fans have for every freshman RB since Herschel Walker put on the silver britches.  Aaron Murray is most experts’ preseason SEC pick.  He had an up and down year last year but has a lot of potential.  A major weapon for this offense is TE Orson Charles.  He seems like a smaller, faster tight end than most start, but he creates match-up problems for sure.  The receivers are highly rated but average at best so far.  Only two offensive linemen return.  The defense has had some troubles since changing to a 3-4 under third year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.  The front seven only returns two starters, but the defensive backfield returns three starters and should be the strength of the defense.  Once again the schedule will allow Georgia to have a better record than the talent would indicate.  If the Dawgs could beat Boise State in the Georgia Dome this week, I could see them using that momentum to beat South Carolina the next week.  If that happens, watch out because they could potentially make it to the SEC Championship Game undefeated and then all bets are off on an SEC West team as a shoe in to win the conference.        

  1. Tennessee (8-4, 4-4):  The Vols are still in rebuilding mode.  The offense returns 7 starters technically but 10 of this year’s starters saw significant playing time last year.  That includes shaky QB Tyler Bray.  I do not have near as much confidence in him as some experts and Vol fans do.  He seems immature and will likely be inconsistent this year until he decides to be more of a student of the game.  They have two potential All-SEC receivers in Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers.  The underappreciated Tauren Poole returns for his senior season at RB.  He was not given a chance to compete (and considered transferring) until last year.  When given the chance last year, he ran for over 1,000 yards behind a bad run-blocking 3 freshmen linemen and a sophomore.  I expect big things from him this year.  The defense continues to have a few question marks.  Dooley has been upbeat in the preseason about his defensive linemen, which is unusual for him.  He has some talent there but just not depth.  As the season creeps in to October-November, we will see if they remain healthy enough to compete.  The linebackers have had two true freshmen step up and earn starting spots in the last three weeks, which is not a good sign although specifically Curt Maggitt (who the Vols stole from the Gators last minute last February during recruiting) has sounded like he is a star in waiting.  The defensive backfield is the deepest unit for the Vols even with Janzen Jackson being kicked off the team.  Brent Brewer is a player to watch back there.  He is a former minor league baseball player turned walk-on last year (think former Vol Kelly Washington impact here).  He can lay some receivers out from the safety position.  The Vols schedule will be difficult to navigate this year for the still young team.  Unfortunately for them, the three teams they draw from the west are Alabama, Arkansas and LSU.  They also play at Florida but have Georgia and South Carolina at home, which I believe they are capable of beating both those teams at home this year.  This season will set the stage for approximately 20 starters returning next year and a run at the SEC title in 2012.    

  1. Florida (6-6, 3-5):  The Odd Couple Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis are now in Gainesville after Urban Meyer noticed Tebow was not at Florida anymore, and he wanted to take his ball and go home.  I am interested to see how the chemistry will be between first time head coach Muschamp and an I-know-everything guy like Weis.  There were reports last year that Weis butted heads multiple times with first time Kansas City Chiefs HC Todd Haley when Weis was OC there.  Regardless of that, Weis plans to turn the Florida offense into a pro style offense.  The personnel he has now has been recruited to fit Urban’s spread offense.  How well do 5-9, 174 Chris Rainey and 5-7, 185 Jeff Demps fit into a pro style run attack?  Not very well.  On the outside, the Gators have Deonte Thompson and Frankie Hammond at receiver; neither one of those players have lived up to the hype as of yet.  Speaking of not living up to the hype, John Brantley didn’t exactly tear it up his first year under center passing for 2,000 yards, 9 TDs and 10 INTs.  He has a lot of pressure on him this year.  The defense is young but has a chance to be phenomenal, especially on the line led by sophomores Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd, and Dominique Easley.  The linebackers have a star on their hands in sophomore Jelani Jenkins.  Sophomore Matt Elam is a physical specimen at safety.  It’s not a matter of if the defense will be dominant but when.  If the defense can get going early this year, it can carry the team.  But I expect the defense to not be fully there yet until next season.  I think Florida is a better team than Tennessee, but Florida’s schedule will keep them from being ahead of them in the standings.  The Gators’ October consist of Alabama at home, at LSU, at Auburn and versus Georgia in Jacksonville.  Then November has them at South Carolina and Florida State at home.  So that is how I get to their six losses.  Gonna be a tough first year for another first year coach, but after the way they dominated during Meyer’s tenure, they were due to fall back to the pack a little.   

  1. Kentucky (7-5, 3-5):  Kentucky lost their starting QB, top two rushers, and top two receivers from last year.  The good news for the offense is they return four offensive linemen.  But will it matter?  The defense returns the entire defensive backfield and All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan.  The Wildcats probably have too much to overcome on the offensive side of the ball though.  They’ve built something good with their scheduling though – go 4-0 by scheduling lower tier non-conference teams and win at least two in the SEC and go bowling.  They’ll accomplish this again this year.        

  1. Vanderbilt (3-9, 1-7):  New head coach James Franklin has come in running his mouth saying he is going to make a difference at Vandy.  We’ll see, but the only difference he may make this year is an increase from one SEC win last year to maybe two this year…or maybe not.

Regular weekly blog will be up before the Thursday games this week!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Big Ten Preview

Jim Delaney, the Big Ten commissioner, is a genius.  If you don’t believe me, just ask him.  He created the Big Ten Network four years ago.  It made $227 million last year.  He pulled Nebraska from the Big 12 last year.  He subsequently decided to name the two six team divisions the Legends and the Leaders.  Not the North/South, West/East, Big/Slow, Snow/Ice divisions…the freaking Legends and Leaders.  College football fans everywhere had a good laugh (and still are) at his expense.  However, he has created arguably the second best conference in the nation with the Nebraska addition.  I believe the Legends division is probably the second toughest division in college this year behind the SEC West.  Let’s dive into a talented Big Ten…    

Legends Division

  1. Michigan State (10-3 overall, 7-1 conference):  Mark Dantonio has proven that he can build a winner anywhere.  He turned doormat Cincinnati around in his three years there and has built a 33-19 record at Michigan State in four years, including an 11-2 record last year that surprised a lot of people.  The Spartans have Kirk Cousins back who threw for 2,800 yards and a 20-10 TD to INT ratio last year.  They also have the conference’s leading returning rusher in Edwin Baker (1,200 yards last year).  They return a good receiving corps with Cunningham, Nichol, Martin and Fowler.  The defense returns six starters led by a strong defensive line.  The road schedule is very difficult this year with games at Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern.  They have Wisconsin at home in the middle of their schedule.  I like the experience on both sides of the ball.  They’ve been challenged last year and are a mentally tough team just like their coach.  They will beat Wisconsin in the regular season but lose to them in the first Big Ten title game in Indianapolis in December.

  1. Nebraska (10-2, 6-2):  The Huskers have their work cut out this year because they have to prepare for eight completely new conference opponents.  There will be no looking back at last year’s tape to see how each team schemed against them.  I think the Huskers do have the best team in the Legends division.  I just don’t trust QB Taylor Martinez.  In the first seven games last year, he rushed for over 800 yards; in the last seven last year, he rushed for 95 with no TDs.  That is not a misprint.  Granted he was hurt some of the time, but he also butted heads with head coach Bo Pelini.  I noticed last year that the Huskers were also undisciplined at times.  I did not realize until I read it in a magazine this summer that they set a school record for penalties in 2010.  The previous record before that was 2009, and the previous record before that was 2008.  All of these occurred with Pelini as head coach.  The offense still has Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead, and a couple of decent receivers.  The defense has a stud within each group – Jared Crick on the line, Lavonte David at linebacker and Alfonzo Dennard in the backfield.  That is typically a recipe for great things.  The schedule will ultimately bite the Huskers this year.  Games at Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan will challenge them in addition to home games versus Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa.  A very tough schedule, but a ten win season in their first year in the conference ain’t too shabby. 

  1. Iowa (10-2, 6-2):  The third ten win team in the division makes for a really difficult division.  Iowa lost Ricky Stanzi.  The starter is likely James Vandenberg.  He is Iowa’s equivalent to Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson.  He hasn’t played much, but he filled in for Stanzi in a huge game in 2009 against Ohio State.  Although the Hawkeyes lost by three, he passed for 233 yards and 2 TDs but 3 INTs in the high pressure late season game.  They return three offensive linemen, all Big Ten receiver Marvin McNutt, and a talented young RB Marcus Coker.  The defense returns five starters and may set them back some.  Iowa has the easiest schedule of the top three in the Big Ten, and it is the main reason why I have them winning ten games.  Not a great Hawkeye team but good enough to win ten when you factor in the schedule.      

  1. Northwestern (7-5, 4-4):  Dan Persa is a playmaker at QB.  He’s a senior and passed for 2,500 yards and 15-4 TD to INT ratio last year before getting hurt in the 10th game of the year last year.  The Wildcats went 0-3 without him.  Northwestern will be no slouch this year as they return 8 starters on offense and 6 on defense although the defense was pretty bad last year.  This team will be fun to watch this year for sure.  There are just simply too many good teams in this division for the Wildcats to do too much record-wise.  They will play every team tough though because that is all their head coach Pat Fitzgerald expects.       

  1. Michigan (6-6, 3-5):  A team that went to a bowl game last year and that is returning 17 starters should be expected to finish better than 6-6.  However, the Wolverines have a new coaching staff and the schedule is tough.  Denard Robinson, last year’s Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, is back and looking to do less running and more passing, which in turn should allow him to stay healthier than last year.  He ran for a remarkable 1,700 yards last year.  They have a deep receiving corps.  Unfortunately for the Wolverines, it’s not Make It, Take It.  Michigan’s defense was the worst defense in its storied history last year.  They return 7 starters on the #110 defense in the nation from last year.  Six of their last seven games are at Northwestern, at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State at home.  That is why they won’t do much better than 6-6, but like Northwestern, they will be really fun to watch.      

  1. Minnesota (3-9, 0-8):  Not a good year to be a really bad team in the stacked Big Ten. 

Leaders Division

  1. Wisconsin (11-2, 6-2 - Conference Champ):  Ah Wisconsin – home of the fat running backs with really white sounding names.  That’s right James White and Montee Ball are gonna run all over everyone this year.  They combined for over 2,000 yards combined last year.  I would expect 2,300 this year.  The Badgers have three of their huge offensive linemen back this year.  Nick Toon returns at receiver, and the QB position will have NC State transfer Russell Wilson, which is a huge upgrade from what they expected they would have in the spring.  The defensive line loses star JJ Watt from last year but is really deep with experienced guys.  The back 7 returns 3 starters.  Wisconsin will benefit from the uncertainty surrounding Ohio State from the Tressel/Pryor fallout although they’ll have to go to Michigan State and Ohio State on back-to-back weeks.     

  1. Ohio State (9-3, 5-3):  What a mess in Columbus.  Everyone knows about their offseason.  Will the Buckeyes play inspired ball with interim coach Luke Fickell or mail the season in, especially when they lose a couple of games early?  I’m really not sure what to expect from these guys; we do know they have a significant portion of their offense out the first five games still.  That includes a home game versus Michigan State, which I think they will lose.  They then go to Nebraska the next week.  After that week, I think they have two losses, and they mail it in although they will still be significantly more talented than most of their opponents in the second half of the season.  You heard it here first…this is the year Michigan breaks the seven game winning streak by the Buckeyes.    

  1. Illinois (9-3, 5-3):  Is the Zooker on or off the hot seat?  It changes every year.  He is definitely in good shape right now after his offense turned it around last year with a tough running game behind now departed Mikel Leshoure.  Luckily for Zook, Nathan Scheelhaase is back at QB after a 17 TD and 8 INT season, which included a bowl win over Baylor.  In total, the offense returns 7 starters and the defense returns 6.  I expect a big year for the Illini with a manageable schedule where they can start out 6-0.  An early under-the-radar, potentially good non-conference game is Illinois versus Arizona State.     

  1. Penn State (7-5, 4-4):  Weekend at Bernie’s is still coaching the Nittany Lions (we think).  JoePa’s newest rebuilding project may take another year at least.  The offense returns 3 linemen and Derek Moye at receiver who caught for almost 900 yards last year.  The defense looks to be starting 11 juniors and seniors, so there is definitely experience there.  The problem will be consistent QB play between Rob Bolden and/or Matt McGloin.  The other problem is the schedule – Alabama at home in non-conference the second week of the season, at Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and home games versus Nebraska and Iowa.  Don’t ever count JoePa out, but that may be too much to handle. 

  1. Purdue (5-7, 2-6):  All we need to know about Purdue is their schedule at the end of the season – a six game stretch at Penn State, Illinois at home, at Michigan, at Wisconsin, and Ohio State and Iowa at home.  There are six conference losses.  It would be tough for any team – much less a team that was #104 in total offense last year and is not returning too much talent.   

  1. Indiana (4-8, 0-8):  See Minnesota above.  They did get a commitment from Gunner Kiel, a top ranked QB in the class of 2012.  So maybe next year.

SEC up next…1 week till kickoff!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

ACC Preview

The ACC doesn’t get a lot of credit for its football and rightly so the way the conference has performed in BCS bowls going 2-11 all time.  Yikes!  Florida State is starting to emerge again as a national power.  I like when Florida State is good because it really makes college football that much better.  Florida State’s emergence will also help the ACC’s image as a mediocre conference.  But the conference still has some work today after Florida State and Virginia Tech because it is clearly the Seminoles and Hokies with the rest of the league way behind.

Atlantic Division

  1. Florida State (12-1 overall, 8-0 conference):  Believe the hype.  I was at first skeptical of Jimbo Fisher and his coach-in-waiting tag because he was on the staff that was underperforming in Bowden’s final years, but since he has taken over, the Noles recruiting has improved and so has the product on the field.  The Noles are stacked – eight returning on offense and defense.  Not to mention a QB in EJ Manual who many wanted starting over Christian Ponder last year who was somehow drafted #12 overall in the NFL draft in April.  Back when the Noles were dominate every year they had a nasty offensive line and defense.  Well they have both of those this year too with three seniors on the o-line back and a defense with fast athletes everywhere.  The entire defensive backfield returns, including Greg Reid who laid out Marcus Lattimore in the Chick-fil-a Bowl last year (watch here:  The conference schedule should be fairly easy for the Noles.  The non-conference game that is circled for them is a rematch of last year’s disappointing loss to Oklahoma except it is in Tallahassee this time.  They also play at the Swamp the last game of the year.  If they can get past OU, watch out.  The Noles may be doing the Tomahawk Chop in the national title game.

  1. NC State (9-3, 6-2):  Not a real good team for what I am predicting their record to be.  That is due to the easy schedule.  At Cincinnati, Florida State and Boston College will be their losses.  The rest of the schedule is against average talent at home for the most part.  The Wolfpack lost Russell Wilson to a transfer because he wasn’t fully devoted to playing college football according to coach Tom O’Brien.  Wilson had a helluva season last year leading the Pack to a bowl win over West Virginia and NC State’s first nine win season since 2002.  Not a lot is coming back on offense, but eight starters are back on defense.  I am not impressed with this team though, but they will get nine wins.

  1. Maryland (6-6, 4-4):  Randy Edsall’s first season as Maryland head coach has arrived after Maryland politely asked Ralph Friedgen to leave.  Edsall called this his dream job…really Randy?  Maryland football head coach is your dream job?  I don’t know how many people in Maryland even realize their college has a football team.  A lot of people are high on sophomore QB Danny O’Brien.  He put up some good numbers last year.  The Terps had the 4th best turnover margin in the nation last year on their way to a 9-4 season.  I think that luck evens out this year a little.    

  1. Clemson (6-6, 4-4):  Yabba Dabba Dabo Swinney pulled together an impressive recruiting class after a typical, underachieving Clemson team went just 6-7 last year including a bowl game loss to South Florida.  Dabo decided to hire Chad Morris from Tulsa to be his offensive coordinator.  Did I mention that Morris is a close friend of Gus Malzahn?  Clemson’s season is going to ride on Tajh Boyd, the highly recruited QB who will be seeing significant playing time for the first time.  He has to grasp this new offense quickly.  He’s got talent around him with RBs Andre Ellington and true freshman Mike Bellamy who was the #1 RB in the state of Florida last year.  Clemson as always though is just too inconsistent for me.  Dabo’s 2011 version will be very average once again, and he will get the boot.  Malzahn will then be hired away from Auburn to be the Tigers’ next head coach.  The rumors have already started.   

  1. Boston College (6-6, 3-5):  BC’s offense is usually terrible.  Their defense is always really solid.  That’s makes for some real boring football folks.  Luke Kuechly is a junior linebacker who is on pace to break the NCAA career tackle record if he keeps it up.  They actually may have a pretty good running game this year with Montel Harris (1,200 yards last year and he only needs about 1,000 yards rushing to become the leading rusher in ACC history) and Andre Williams (500 yards last year) returning.  Six return on offense and defense from a 7-6 team.  The road schedule is pretty difficult with games at Central Florida, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Miami.  Another bowl bid for the Eagles but that’s all.      

  1. Wake Forest (2-10, 0-8):  Worst team in an average conference is not something to brag about.  The Demon Deacons have struggled in the post-Riley Skinner era (I almost typed that with a straight face).  Remember when the rumor was the Arkansas Razorbacks were going to hire Jim Grobe before Petrino showed up.  Good choice Hogs. 

Coastal Division

  1. Virginia Tech (12-1, 8-0):  The Hokies lost Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans from their offense.  They only return five starters on defense.  This is the recipe for a mediocre season in Blacksburg right?  Not so fast.  Virginia Tech has to have just about the easiest schedule in a BCS conference this year.  They play ZERO teams ranked in the preseason AP poll.  The non-conference schedule consists of Marshall, East Carolina, Arkansas State, and Marshall.  The toughest home game is Miami and toughest road game is at Georgia Tech.  There are probably 30 Division I teams who could possibly go undefeated with this schedule.  While I do not think the Hokies are great this year, they will be in the hunt for a BCS and possibly a national championship berth until they have their usual late season letdown – but it will not happen this year until the ACC Championship Game at the hands of Florida State.   

  1. Miami (7-5, 5-3):  Oh Miami!  Oh Miami!  After this week’s developments, the fun may be over in Miami.  This may be the last non-sanction affected season for them in a while.  I’m tired of hearing about all of the allegations, so I am just going to stick to the current team.  Remember when Jacory Harris was a Heisman candidate.  After a 7-6 record last season and 14-15 TD to INT ratio, Harris has been downgraded.  He is now a senior though with a lot of experience under his belt.  I love senior QBs.  They also return a veteran line but lack experience in the skill positions.  The defense has 7 starters returning from a group that ranked 22 nationally.  The Canes schedule is not easy.  They play Ohio State and Kansas State at home and at South Florida out of conference.  Games at Florida State, at North Carolina and at Virginia Tech are not doing them any favors in conference.  I think Miami may have a better team than Virginia Tech (assuming no suspensions come from the Nevin Shapiro accusations).  The schedules are very lopsided though, and that is why Miami's record is not even close to the Hokies.  I will call the Canes my darkhorse team in the ACC though if they catch some breaks.    

  1. Georgia Tech (7-5, 4-4):  Josh Nesbitt is finally gone at QB.  Anthony Allen who ran for 1,300 last year is gone.  Many experts wondered if the triple option could remain effective in a major conference for a long period of time in this era.  It started with a bang as the Yellow Jackets went to a BCS game two year ago.  Last year, they were still the #1 rushing attack in the nation (and the #119 passing attack), but they slipped in the win-loss column going 6-7.  They have some inexperience in the all-important backfield this year and only return 5 starters on defense.  They’ll likely have some growing pains this year and just be pretty average.

  1. North Carolina (8-4, 4-4):  Another troublemaker in this division is the Tar Heels.  They fired Butch Davis as soon as he returned from media days at the end of July.  There is a lot of uncertainty off the field with these guys, which leads to plenty of distractions.  The offense was only #51 in the nation in total offense last year, and it should be worse this year.  They lost their QB and leading rusher.  The defense who was continuously playing without starters last year returns 4 starters, including defensive end Quinton Coples.  He is easily one of the better defenders in the nation.  All of this means that the Tar Heels will have to win ugly.  Their home schedule is manageable, and I actually have them undefeated at home.  The road schedule will give them their four losses:  Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State and Virginia Tech. 

  1. Virginia (3-9, 1-7):  Bad and…

  1. Duke (3-9, 1-7):  …real bad.  I wonder if Cutcliffe is still “glad to be at Duke.”

B1G up next…2 weeks till kickoff!


Friday, August 5, 2011

PAC-12 Preview

The PAC-10 became the PAC-12 with the additions of Utah and Colorado this past year.  It was almost the PAC-16 but Texas and their followers got cold feet and they remained in the Big 12…for now.  The PAC-12’s first championship game will be played this fall at the home field of the team with the best conference record, which is different than the neutral site games we see in all of the other Division I conferences with championship games.  USC is ineligible to play in the conference title game this year due to the Reggie Bush sanctions they received.  One more strange thing about the first PAC-12 conference season is that Colorado and California will be playing each other in a non-conference game although they are now in the same conference.  This is due to them scheduling this game before Colorado accepted an invitation to join the conference. 

Now on with the predictions…

North Division

  1. Stanford (12-0, 9-0 – Conference Champ):  Let me first say I’m a believer in Andrew Luck.  He is a once in a generation talent.  Watch last year’s Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech, and you will become a believer too.  I’m going against one of my rules here thinking very highly of a team with a new head coach.  Jim Harbaugh is gone to the NFL, and he no doubt was the reason why Stanford improved from a 1-11 team in 2006 to a top 5 team in 2010.  Think about how monumental of a task that was.  A very highly regarded academic school where they can’t recruit all of the same athletes as their competitors, and he managed to turn that around in four years.  Andrew Luck is one of those QBs that can be his own coach, and it doesn’t really matter what he has returning offensively around him.  He is just that great.  He is the reason you will see several NFL teams taking dives at the end of the season this year to secure the #1 pick in the draft so they can pick him up.  The Cardinal return 1,100 yard rusher Stepfan Taylor.  They have three linemen returning as well.  Luck will have to work with the receivers though because of the lack of experience, but he will make it happen.  The defense returns six starters and upperclassmen as depth all over the defense.  As you will see how most teams make a run at the national title, Stanford’s schedule is manageable.  They have Oregon and Notre Dame at home.  The toughest road games are at USC and at Oregon State back-to-back weeks.  I think they will survive these and go on to play in the national title game after they beat Arizona State in the conference title game.  This will make Luck a shoe-in for the Heisman and every other player of the year award.
  2. Oregon (10-2, 8-1):  Many teams on both the college and pro level lose their edge the year after they lose in the title game (see Texas last year and several NFL teams in a row in the 2000s).  I truly believe the Ducks will have a phenomenal offense once again this year with seven starters returning (Texarkana product LaMichael James being one of them), and the defense will be serviceable again.  I just think they will not have the same motivation throughout the season as they did last year.  What happens when they lose that second game of the year, and they know they don’t have a shot at a nation title this year?  They will probably start feeling sorry for themselves and lose another one.  They will, however, lose to the two teams in my opinion that will be playing for the national title – LSU and Stanford.  They have to go to Stanford, and the Cardinal owe them one from last year’s beatdown in Eugene.
  3. Oregon State (7-5, 5-4):  The Beavers have been a steady team under Mike Riley.  Last year they struggled while they were breaking in a new QB.  Jacquizz Rodgers is gone, but they do return seven starters on offense.  The defense will be losing a lot this year returning only three starters, and they were already bad last year.  Their road games are very tough this year – Wisconsin, Arizona State, Utah and Oregon.  I expect all four of those to be losses.  But they will manage to only lose at home to Stanford and will go bowling again this year after staying at home last year.
  4. Washington (5-7, 3-6):  Some experts have great things to say about Washington as an up-and-comer this year with Chris Polk returning from a 1,400 yard rushing year.  I just don’t see it because a team doesn’t lose a talent like Jake Locker and improve.  The road schedule is brutal this year:  at Nebraska, Utah, Stanford, USC, and Oregon State.  Good luck with that!  That will keep them from going bowling this year.  
  5. California (4-8, 2-7):  Despite the Berkeley treehugger’s pleas over the years, Cal is getting renovations done on their dump of a stadium this year.  So the Golden Bears will be playing their home games at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park this year, which will at least make for a cool setting to watch their home games.  That won’t keep Jeff Tedford’s seat from getting any warmer though.  It was just a couple of years ago that these guys were a perennial top 20 team.  What has happened?  Mainly, it has been due to their lack of consistent playmakers on offense.  It is gonna get even worse for Tedford this year.  I don’t’ know if he will make after a two win conference season.
  6. Washington State (3-9, 1-8):  Wow, they’re still bad.  But QB Jeff Tuel may be able to pull out a couple of surprises this year.

South Division

  1. Arizona State (9-3, 7-2):  Dennis Erickson has had a winning program just about everywhere he has been throughout his 22 years as a college head coach.  He is in his 5th year at Arizona State and only has a record of 25-24.  But I think this will be his year where he gets the Sun Devils headed in the right direction.  Leading the charge is the best defender in college football - linebacker Vontaze Burfict.  Watch this video of him ( and many others like that are on YouTube.  This guy is a violent tackler with a bad attitude.  Just the type of player a team needs to lead them to a championship.  In addition to Burfict, the defense returns five other starters.  On the offensive side of the ball, the line is in good shape with four starters returning and Cameron Marshall returns to run the ball who had almost 800 yards rushing last year.  The bad news is the receiving corp is unproven for the most part and projected starting QB Brock Osweiler (who is 6’8” by the way) has only started two games in his college career.  Steven Threet, transfer from Michigan, started most of last year but had to give up football because of concussions.  Overall, in a weak division, I think the Sun Devils will have enough to win the division.  They have USC, Oregon State, and rival Arizona at home and have to travel to Utah and Oregon in back-to-back weeks, which I think will be their only losses in conference.   
  2. USC (8-4, 6-3):  I am still not sure how good or bad of a coach Lane Kiffin is.  He had a talented team last year in his first season and managed to lead them to an uninspired 8-5 record last year.  Part of the reason may be the fact they knew they couldn’t go to a bowl last year; well they can’t this year either.  In Kiffin’s only year in Tennessee and first year at USC, he had a total of 15 players drafted in the NFL draft and led those teams to a combined 15-13 record.  The 15 players is more than any single college had drafted in the two year period.  The closest school to have that many draft picks was Florida who had 13 players drafted and went 21-5.  That’s also more than Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon who all had more than 20 wins in that time period.  Looks like Kiffin has had some talent to play with but for some reason it hasn’t translated to wins on the field.  So maybe he isn’t as good of a coach as he believes he is.  They do have Matt Barkley back along with a good, young receiving corp and Marc Tyler back to run the ball.  The defense returns seven starters from a porous group last year.  I’m still not sure of their motivation though, and Barkley has to be ready to move on to the NFL.  Games at Arizona State, Oregon and Notre Dame are losses.  A home game with Stanford and Andrew Luck is also a loss.  USC will start to be hit with scholarship reductions next year so 2nd place in the division could be their highest finish in the near future.  
  3. Utah (6-6, 5-4):  One of the most debated topics in the BCS era will start to be answered this year.  Can the non-automatic qualifier schools who have reached the BCS, such as Utah, Boise State, TCU and Hawaii play in a big boy conference and succeed week in and week out?  This has been debated for several years even though these teams have done fairly well in their BCS bowls when given a shot.  But that is where the weekly argument comes in.  It is easy for these teams to sleepwalk through their conference and get up for a couple of games a year.  Well starting this year, Utah gets a chance to shut up the critics once and for all.  I respect these programs regardless, but I think Utah will struggle at times this year especially toward the end when injuries start to mount up.  I see them being a hard team to predict this year because they have never played these teams on a consistent basis.  With six returning starters on offense, including the next good QB at Utah (Jordan Wynn), they are not lacking experience on that side of the ball.  The defense is the question mark though, and I think they will struggle to keep up with some of these PAC-12 offenses even though they luck out on the schedule and do not have to play Stanford or Oregon.
  4. Arizona (6-6, 4-5):  Just when Mike Stoops looked like he had the program turned around, they lost their last five games last season.  They return senior QB Nick Foles (who I think is a little overrated) but not much else on offense.  The defense has five guys coming back from a pretty good defense last year.  The schedule is not kind as they play at Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, at USC and at Oregon State in successive weeks all before the middle of October.  That can put a damper on a season and will put Mike Stoops officially back on the hot seat after this season is all said and done.
  5. UCLA (4-8, 3-6):  Speaking of hot seat, how is Rick Neuheisel still at UCLA.  He is only 15-22 in three years at the school but has had a couple of highly rated recruiting classes that he is still waiting to develop.  He has also had some bad luck at the QB position.  Kevin Prince is somehow only a junior and schedule to start this year along with six other returning starters on offense.  In that group is underrated Johnathan Franklin who rushed for 1,100 yards and 8 TDs last year.  Another less than stellar season for the Rick though.
  6. Colorado (3-10, 1-8):  Dan “10 wins, no excuses” Hawkins has finally been fired.  Different conference, same crappy team. It will be a forgettable first season for the Buffs in the new PAC-12.

ACC up next…until then keep counting the days down.